York Co. sheriff tells hundreds at vigil for officer, ‘we’ve got your back’
Hundreds of police officers from across America, and hundreds more people who wanted to show support, arrived Monday morning at a south Charlotte church for the funeral of slain York County officer Mike Doty.
Doty, 37, a York County Sheriff's Office detective, died Jan. 17 after he was shot Jan. 16 in what police said was an ambush by a domestic violence suspect just outside York.
“This is the hardest day for any police officer,” said S.C. Rep. Bruce Bryant, R-York, and a former York County Sheriff from 1997 to 2016. “It is the day we hope never comes. And it is here.”
Bryant hired Doty is 2006. Mike Doty’s twin brother, Chris, also is a deputy in York County.
The Doty family are Charlotte natives.
“Mike exemplified the best in all of us,” Bryant said.
Three other officers -- Sgt. Randy Clinton and Sgt. Buddy Brown, and York Police Department Sgt. Kyle Cummings, were wounded.
During the service, the Rev. John Munro thanked offers “for their courage in a sometimes evil and violent world.”
Sheriff Kevin Tolson said to the three surviving officers, “You were Mike’s heroes.”
Earlier, outside the church around 10:45 a.m., Cummings arrived in a wheelchair, pushed by a member of the Rock Hill Fire Department. Cummings wore his SWAT team uniform, and was surrounded by other members of the team.
The SWAT team members are honorary pallbearers. They arrived at Calvary wearing their SWAT uniforms.
Officers from all over hugged Cummings, shook his hand, and told him how proud they were of his courage.
The stream of police continued to arrive, with a group from the New York Police Department - the nation's largest police force - arriving at the church.
At 11 a.m., a Transmed van pulled up. The SWAT team gathered at the rear and waited for the lift to come down.
On the lift, in a wheelchair, sat Sgt. Buddy Brown. Brown had been hospitalized since he was shot.
Brown also wore his SWAT jacket. His legs were covered by a black blanket.
His sheriff's office badge hung on a silver chain around his neck. Across the badge was a black band with the number 809 on it. That was the call number for Mike Doty.
Several officers gathered to hug Brown.
Brown was wheeled toward the doors where hundreds of police stood in formation waiting to salute as funeral officials prepared to bring Mike Doty in to the church.
York County’s deputies stood at the front of the line. Behind them were York officers, and hundreds more from other departments. The line stretched around the building, as many of the officers had decided they would wait outside and honor Doty before going into the church.
York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson greeted many of his local deputies personally.
Clinton was the first to be shot in the attack, police said, then the three others who were York County SWAT team members were shot during the search for the suspect who has been identified As Christian Thomas McCall.
York Police Department officials also arrived at Calvary Church, where police honor guards and dozens of flower arrangements have been set up inside the cavernous house of worship, which was chosen in part because it is large enough to handle the expected thousands of mourners.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s honor guard gathered in the church cafe, readying to honor Doty.
Outside the church at 10:30 a.m., a steady stream of people filed in, passing the gathered police officers. Several hugged officers, or shook hands, or just told the officers that they will not be forgotten.
The family of Mike Doty arrived at the church around 11:30 a.m., and went in flanked by hundreds of officers near the entry to the church and sanctuary.
Retired Rock Hill officer and former department lead homicide detective and spokesman Jerry Waldrop stood outside the church before the service and said, “This should never happen. But it did. Again.”
Waldrop's partner as a young officer, Steve Jordan, was gunned down in 1975 while working in Rock Hill.
Jordan is the last Rock Hill Police Department officer to be killed in the line of duty. The last sheriff's office deputy to be killed on duty was James Brent McCants in 1992.
Waldrop knew both officers, just as he knows the officers who were wounded and died last week.
“Any time this happens is too many times, and this has happened too many times,” Waldrop said.
Waldrop then walked away to stand with the officers he served with for more than three decades, and so he could honor Mike Doty.
The service starts at noon. Burial will follow in Rock Hill after a procession from Charlotte.
A caisson from the N.C. Highway Patrol is expected to carry Doty from Celanese Road to the spot in Forest Hills Cemetery where Doty will be laid to rest, said Maj. Robbie Hudgins of the sheriff's office.
Check back for updates.