The widow of the Douglas County, Colorado deputy who was killed in the line of duty Sunday read the final love letter she never thought she’d write during his funeral Friday morning, in a church filled with hundreds of friends, family and members of law enforcement who came from across the country to pay tribute to one of their own.
Zackari Parrish III, a 29-year-old husband and father of two girls, loved his job as a deputy, his wife Gracie said. And it’s that commitment to service that she says she will continue to instill in their two young daughters.
“I promise to raise them in a home that bleeds blue,” Gracie Parrish said.
Gracie Parrish fought back tears as she described how she’d written countless letters to her husband over the years. She was using this one to describe how she felt about the loss of a man she'd known for 10 years.
“Joy for the amazing 10 years I had with him, and pride for the man he was,” she said. “It’s a letter that I hope my girls can read one day, and feel every ounce of love that I have for their daddy.”
“… I promise to tell them that their daddy loved them to the moon,” Gracie added.
There was a moment of levity when Gracie Parrish said she wouldn't teach her daughters to drive herself, instead leaving it up to her husband's "brothers in blue" once they turn 16.
Zackari Parrish had been with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office for seven months. Before that, he served with the Castle Rock Police Department for two years.
His first law enforcement job was at the Morrison Police Department.
Zackari Parrish’s father, Zackari Parrish II, called laying his son to rest the “hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”
“Our family, we are heartbroken, and we’re grieving and we’re hurt, but we cannot do it without you,” the fallen deputy’s father told the assembled crowd of law enforcement.
Zackari Parrish was known as a model officer in the Castle Rock Police Department, Chief Jack Cauley said, describing a man he remembered for his sense of humor, faith and commitment to service.
"Zack was the type of officer that once held a young child in his arms to shield them from seeing handcuffs being placed on their parent," Cauley said. "He once stopped an individual for speeding, as he's walking up, the individual says 'I have a concerned carry permit, I have a firearm on me.'
"Classic Zack, he doesn't skip a beat and says 'I won't take out mine if you don't take out yours, do we have a deal?'" Cauley said, a memory that was met with laughter in the often somber room.
Cauley also told a story about how once, Zackari Parrish bought a hotel room for someone with his own money so they would have a safe, warm place for the evening -- something he didn't think his wife even knew.
"He had such a passion and such a way of treating everybody as if they were part of the family, no matter what the situation was," Cauley said.
Cauley joked that Zackari Parrish was the reason why he went over his overtime budget -- and it was a joke seconded by Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock, who said that just reflected the deputy's commitment to serving his community, and his legendary work ethic.
Spurlock said he watched the body camera video from the morning Zack Parrish was killed, and said he'd never seen an officer who was so calm while pleading with a suspect, whose last words to the man who shot him were an offer to help.
"And it reminds me of First Corinthians ... 'imitate me, as I also imitate Christ' and that was Deputy Zack Parrish," Spurlock said.
Parrish received a posthumous Medal of Valor for that night, Spurlock said.
"I'm proud of Deputy Parrish ... he truly was a cop's cop," Spurlock said.
Northbound Interstate 25 closed on Friday morning so that a funeral procession that was more than a mile long could take the fallen deputy to Cherry Hills Community Church.
Hundreds of members of law enforcement and the public stood on the highway, stopping to salute a man that many of them had never even met.
During the funeral service, one of his best friends said he used to call anything that impressed him "phenomenal."
And "phenomenal" was one way to describe Zackari Parrish's life.