Hundreds pay respects to slain DeKalb officers

Associated Press
DeKalb County Police Chief Terrell Bolton speaks during the memorial service for fallen officers Ricky Bryant Jr. and Eric Barker at Newbirth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga. They were killed a week ago in an apparent ambush as they worked as off-duty security guards at an apartment complex. Three men have been arrested and charged with murder in their deaths.

LITHONIA, Ga. --- Eric Barker and Ricky Bryant Jr. had similar stories.

Both men joined the military -- Mr. Barker was part of the U.S. Army Reserve and Mr. Bryant was a Marine -- and both found their calling as police officers from those experiences. They joined the DeKalb County Police Department out of an intrinsic drive to be public servants, family members said.

The two men had four children each, so they moonlighted as off-duty security guards together to make extra money for their families. And it was while they were working that part-time job at an apartment complex that Mr. Barker, 33, and Mr. Bryant, 26, were shot to death a week ago in an apparent ambush, police said.

Hundreds gathered Wednesday to mourn the two men as their flag-draped caskets sat at the front of the packed sanctuary at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, where Mr. Bryant and his wife are members.

The congregation was filled with uniformed and plainclothes officers. Many of the attendees had placed black bands across their badges, a long-standing tradition to honor fallen officers.

Family and friends remembered both men as dependable, dedicated officers and loving fathers and husbands.

"I believe he's in heaven, and that is what is getting me through this right now," said Colin Barker, Eric Barker's brother. "He believed in the system. He believed in the law. He believed in doing the right thing."

Outside the church, dozens of police officers on motorcycles and in squad cars waited to escort the hearse carrying Mr. Barker's body to Forest Lawn Cemetery in College Park. Mr. Bryant's body will be flown to Rochester, N.Y., his hometown, for a burial later, DeKalb County authorities said.

Mr. Bryant and Mr. Barker were killed the morning of Jan. 16 in a parking lot at the Glenwood Gardens apartment complex in Atlanta's eastern suburbs. The officers were wearing their police uniforms and had been hired as part-time security to prevent break-ins.

Mr. Bryant was a two-year veteran of the department, and Mr. Barker had worked there for four years.

Residents say drugs, prostitution and gunfire are common at the apartment complex.

Police have charged three men -- Herbie DeShawn Durham, 32, William Maurice Woodward, 26, and Mario O'Brian Westbrook, 31 -- with two counts of murder. A fourth man was arrested but later released.