For Rock Hill cop John Rainier, Calvary Church in Charlotte means one thing: A friend in law enforcement was dead from a bullet.
Monday’s funeral, for slain York County deputy Mike Doty, was not his first time at the church. The appearances were 11 years apart. The second was just as hard.
“I almost didn’t recognize the church, it was like I was numb,” said Rainier, 46.
In 2007, Rainier gave one of the eulogies at that church for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officer Jeff Shelton, gunned down in 2007 with another officer, Sean Clark. Shelton was Rainier’s best friend; the two had served together in the Marines.
Rainier was Shelton’s best man at his wedding. He stood up for Shelton before God and country. And he went to Calvary Church in 2007.
On that awful day in 2007, Rainier spoke with a broken nose after a fight with a suspect in Rock Hill just days before.
“I remembered the steps (to the altar) were so steep, it was all I could do to try not to fall down,” Rainier recalled.
In 2007, Rainier wore a Rock Hill Police Department dress uniform to honor Shelton. His hair was still in a Marine buzz cut.
Monday, to honor Doty, Rainier wore SWAT fatigues. He was an honorary pallbearer with SWAT colleagues who were on the deadly call Jan. 16, when Doty and three others were shot. Rainier is heavier now than in 2007, and his hair is longer. He has a beard, and is now a drug agent.
So was Mike Doty.
Rainier called Doty “Mikey.” Doty, one of four officers shot in an ambush Jan. 16, died Wednesday. Rainier spent the past several days helping Doty’s family and other officers get through it, because he has been through the pain, the tears and the important work of carrying on.
“Mikey, this week was all about Mikey,” Rainier said. “It’s not about me. It is about him. This was a tribute to Mikey.”
Doty, a member of the York County SWAT team, was chasing a domestic violence suspect at 3:30 a.m. near York.
Rainier said the funeral was also a tribute to county SWAT members Sgt. Buddy Brown of the sheriff’s office and Sgt. Kyle Cummings of York Police Department, who were wounded, and to sheriff’s K-9 Sgt. Randy Clinton, shot before the SWAT team was attacked.
Rainier is a Rock Hill Police Department lieutenant and a supervisor in the York County drug unit. He worked with Doty on drug cases.
“Mikey was as good as it gets,” Rainier said.
Rainier is also a Rock Hill SWAT team leader. He spent years as Rock Hill’s training officer, making sure officers were ready for anything.
Rainier and others from Rock Hill were called Tuesday morning to assist after the shooting outside York, after the York County SWAT team was called out.
“We were all focused on one thing, being there for Mikey,” Rainier said.
After Monday’s funeral, Rainier and the other SWAT officers were in a miles-long processional from the church to the cemetery in Rock Hill. Rainier and his unit rode in the SWAT truck.
Hundreds of people lined Celanese Road in Rock Hill, and Interstate 485 and Interstate 77 in Charlotte and York County.
He saw the community he, Doty, Shelton and others served for many years wave flags and hold signs to show support of law enforcement.
He was humbled, as he was in 2007, when Shelton was killed and Charlotte wept and waved for Shelton and Clark.
John Rainier said it was “awesome” that so many people would care about Doty.
“To see two major interstates shut down, and thousands of people standing, showing their respect, is why we do what we do,” Rainier said. “They helped provide comfort for the York County Sheriff's Office family.”
Rainier said all those people at the funeral, and thousands more along the roadways, did one more thing.
The community “helped send Mike Doty home the right way,” Rainier said.
Rainier said it is life, and the lives of the officers and the public they serve, that must be remembered. And Rainier, who honored Shelton and Doty 11 years apart, will not quit.