TACOMA, Wash. – The early stages of planning a memorial service for Pierce County Deputy Cooper Dyson started on Monday. The Pierce County Incident Management Team began organizing resources to assist Dyson’s family and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office during the sudden loss.
“Cooper Dyson had tremendous smarts, heart and dedication,” said Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor.
Dyson, 25, died Saturday when he crashed his patrol car while racing to an urgent call to help fellow deputies with a domestic violence case in Parkland. Pastor said Dyson joined the force at Pierce County 16 months ago. He mentioned the deputy was already distinguishing himself as a leader.
“Somebody who cared, did excellent work, work beside us to make a moral difference in the community,” said Pastor. “We think of heroes as people who are larger than life. In fact, the real heroes in America are people who are willing to be larger than their own lives.”
Monday, the sheriff and other law enforcement across the county wore black bands on their badges to pay tribute to his service and mourning his tragic loss.
“They step forward and they give of themselves. Unfortunately, we risk giving everything. And it’s not just our people who are placed at risk. I mean, think about it. Families are also at risk,” said Pastor.
Dyson is survived by his pregnant wife and two-year-old child. An organization called the Behind the Badge Foundation is helping his family to plan for life after him.
“Working directly with the family to try to decide what it is that they truly want to see in a memorial. But then we extend beyond that for a number of years to come,” said Sgt. Brian Johnston, executive director of Behind the Badge.
Johnston, who also works for the Monroe Police Department, said losses like Dyson’s impact more than just his family and the sheriff’s office.
“It’s an entire community. No one feels that more than the family members. No one feels that more than the actual agency. But the rest of us feel like we have a way that we can help,” said Johnston.
Q13 News was invited to see the first day of the planning process for Dyson’s memorial service. Behind the Badge works with the Pierce County Incident Management Team. The group consists of almost 40 people from 27 agencies. Ryan Portmann with the Incident Management Team said they will work for the next seven to 10 days, including Christmas, to make sure the ceremony properly reflects his life of service and sacrifice.
“There’s a lot of strength and a lot of unity that comes from that. The sheriff’s department is grieving and by them simply seeing that there are this many different entities that are there to support them and to lift them up through this tragic event, I think, is very powerful,” said Portmann, who is also a captain at the Puyallup Police Department.
The sheriff said the team's efforts are the kind of support they need as the office deals with the sudden loss of one of their own.
“Our ultimate mission is to do justice and to undo injustice. People who are willing to do that and risk themselves in it are worth their weight in gold,” said Pastor.
Dyson died on the 10 year anniversary of two Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputies shot while responding to a domestic violence call. One of them didn’t survive. Like Dyson, he too left behind a wife and children.
Studies show domestic violence calls are the most dangerous to respond to. A study done by multiple organizations, including the DOJ, show that between 2010-2016, domestic dispute calls for service were the deadliest calls for service amongst law enforcement.
“It was right before Christmas, after Thanksgiving when Jake died and it just tears your entire world apart,” says Rebecca Humphrey. What happened to her husband, Tacoma Police Officer Jake Gutierrez, three years ago is a reminder that there’s nothing routine about a domestic disturbance call.
“It’s heartbreaking-it’s heartbreaking for everybody. Time is of the essence when responding to those calls so I understand exactly why the officer was trying to get to that call so fast. When an officer in distress calls goes out everyone is racing because it only takes a split second and an officer's life is gone and there's nothing we can do to take any of that back,” says Humphrey.
Pastor said Dyson’s name will live forever at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and Museum in Washington D.C. Pierce County Sheriff’s Office will be there in May to add his name to The Memorial, a monument honoring men and women officers killed in the line of duty.