One theme ran through the funeral of Mike Doty on Monday, and one word was used often by many. That word was “hero.”
Doty, 37, a York County Sheriff's Office detective, died Jan. 17, after he was shot a day earlier in what police said was an ambush by a domestic violence suspect. Doty had been a deputy since 2006. He started his career at the York Police Department.
Law enforcement officers called Doty a hero.
Preachers called him a hero.
His boss called him a hero and said Doty also had heroes. His heroes were the three other officers shot during the incident, which started late Jan. 16 just outside the town of York, and ended early Tuesday with four officers wounded.
“You were Mike’s heroes,” York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson told Sgt. Kyle Cummings of the York Police Department, and sheriff’s office Sgts. Randy Clinton and Buddy Brown, all of whom were wounded in the shootout.
The funeral was held at Calvary Church in Charlotte, to hold the thousands of people who wanted to attend. Police came from as far away as Ohio and New York to pay tribute.
More than 5,000 people attended the funeral, said State Law Enforcement Division spokesman Thom Berry.
Clinton, a K-9 officer, was shot first while tracking the suspect. Doty, Cummings and Brown were all SWAT team members, who responded after Clinton was shot.
Brown and Cummings, in wheelchairs, wore their SWAT uniforms. Clinton also was in a wheelchair. Brown was delivered to the funeral in a medical transport van.
All wore badges around their necks with black bands and Doty’s call number, 809, on the band.
Hundreds of officers told the three surviving officers how proud they were of them, their courage, and thanked them for coming to the funeral despite their injuries.
Other York County and Rock Hill SWAT team members wore their SWAT uniforms. York County’s SWAT team members were honorary pallbearers.
The funeral was emotional for hundreds of police, some of whom wept as photos of Doty were shown on two large screens.
The middle of the church was filled with more than 100 members of the sheriff’s office.
Dozens of deputies from York County stood in formation before the service, saluting, as Doty’s casket was brought into the church
Tolson spoke at the funeral with a few light moments, talking about Doty wrecking several police cars and being a stickler for the wait staff and baristas at Starbucks.
But the light comments were overshadowed by Tolson’s heartfelt words about Doty’s impact in fighting the opioid crisis as a member of the narcotics unit, and his devotion to saving young people from drugs and alcohol.
“He made an impact,” Tolson told the crowd. “As we found out Tuesday, we are not promised our last breath.”
Tolson vowed that he and other police officers will continue Doty’s work of protecting the public, even as they mourn.
The shootings and the death of Doty has sparked an enormous support of police in York County that Tolson said has helped carry officers through difficult days.
The Rev. Barry Yates, one of the speakers at Monday’s funeral, said that police and the community all have one question: “Why?”
The suspect in the shootings, Christian Thomas McCall, 47, also was shot and remains hospitalized. He has not been charged, but is expected to face murder and attempted murder charges.
Yates said Doty would want all police and the public to continue to fight against evil, and for good.
Yates called Doty’s death a “senseless killing.”
“Mike was not a quitter,” Yates said. “He was a hero. He became a hero.”
Mike Doty’s father, Bob, told those in attendance at the funeral that Mike’s life and legacy was helping others, and that even in death he brought people together.
“That’s what Mike tried to do,” Bob Doty said.
Doty’s twin brother, Chris, is also a sheriff's deputy.
Mike Doty’s other brother, Joshua, who is in the U.S. Air Force, told the crowd that Mike Doty was an organ donor. Before Mike died Wednesday, his organs were saved to help others.
“We hope his donation will save lives,” Joshua Doty said.
He said his brother was a “servant” who was “running toward danger, when others were running from it.”
Joshua Doty told the crowd that his brother had love, affection and honor for people and his legacy of service will remain as long as people live with those same ideals. He said the world can "overcome evil with good."
S.C. Rep. Bruce Bryant, R-York, was the York County sheriff from 1997 to 2016, and hired Mike Doty.
Bryant sat with sheriff’s deputies, and was emotional about the death of an officer whom Bryant said “lived and died a hero.”
“This is the hardest day for any police officer,” Bryant said. “It is the day we hope never comes. And it is here.”
Doty is the first York County law enforcement officer killed on duty since 1992, when deputy James Brent McCants was ambushed during a traffic stop. The last officer killed on duty in the city of Rock Hill was in 1975, when Steve Jordan was killed in a traffic stop. Jordan’s former partner and best friend, retired Rock Hill Lt. Jerry Waldrop, wore his old uniform to the service Monday.
“This should never happen,” Waldrop said of police being shot. “But it did. Again.”
Waldrop said shootings of officers have happened “too many times.”
Outside the church after the service, while waiting for a miles-long procession to start toward the Rock Hill cemetery where Doty was buried, many deputies were somber and grim.
They waited as a large contingent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police and firefighters waited to start the procession under a huge American flag draped from a fire department ladder truck. Scores of Charlotte officers assisted with the funeral, traffic and other duties.
Tolson thanked all the Charlotte officers and others for their support.
Yet the funeral was just that – a service for a man who was gone. The loss remains.
“We always know this could happen, but when it does it still hurts,” said Lt. David Frye, a York County deputy for 34 years. “It’s just awful.”
The thousands of people at the church and the miles-long procession that reached from Charlotte to Rock Hill was “amazing,” said Andy Robinson, York Police Department chief.
"The support was awesome and humbling," Robinson said.
Robinson said York police Sgt. Cummings, one of the wounded officers, went to the funeral despite still being in pain to show his support for Doty and the others.
"Hopefully, today will start the real healing process for him (Cummings)" Robinson said.
In Rock Hill, Doty's family led the procession into Forest Hills cemetery, where they passed a large American flag hoisted by a Rock Hill fire truck.
Law enforcement officers from York and Mecklenburg counties took Doty's casket, wrapped with the American flag, and placed it onto the back of a caisson, or a horse-drawn wagon, led by four black Percheron horses.
The SLED helicopter that was fired upon during last week’s shooting flew overhead before Doty's casket arrived at his resting place.
The Herald’s Tracy Kimball contributed
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065