Colo. deputy killed in ambush attack was 'joyous' about his work

Deputy Zackari Parrish, who was killed in an ambush attack on New Year's Eve, was remembered for his boundless energy

By John Leyba, Larry Ryckman, Tom McGhee and Noelle Phillips
The Denver Post

DENVER — Zackari Parrish, the Douglas County sheriff’s deputy killed in a New Year’s Eve ambush, had boundless energy that fueled him through the night shift and kept him going during the day so he could play with his two young daughters.

“He was just joyous and vibrant about the work he was doing,” said Lacey Knight, a friend. “He was tremendously excited and in love with his wife and those two girls. They were his whole life.”

Deputy Zackari Parrish had been a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy for seven months, and he had worked more than two years as an officer at the Castle Rock Police Department. (Photo/Douglas County Sheriff's Office)
Deputy Zackari Parrish had been a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy for seven months, and he had worked more than two years as an officer at the Castle Rock Police Department. (Photo/Douglas County Sheriff's Office)

Parrish, 29, was gunned down Sunday morning while responding to a domestic disturbance at at the Copper Canyon Apartments on East County Line Road in Highlands Ranch. Three other Douglas County Sheriff’s Office deputies and a Castle Rock Police Department officer were wounded in the shootout, Sheriff Tony Spurlock said. Two residents also were wounded, and the shooter was killed.

Parrish is survived by his wife and two daughters.

Hours after the shooting, Parrish’s body was carried from Littleton Adventist Hospital in a hearse that was followed by a procession of 60 of law enforcement vehicles from across the region. Firefighters and everyday citizens stood in the cold along the road to pay respects as the procession headed south on Broadway toward C-470 and toward Interstate 25. Motorcycle police shut down intersections so the long, black car with American flags fluttering from its fenders could pass.

Parrish had been a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy for seven months, and he had worked more than two years as an officer at the Castle Rock Police Department.

“Zackari served the Town of Castle Rock with honor and dignity.  He truly loved being a police officer and embodied everything it is to be one,” Castle Rock Police Chief Jack Cauley said in a statement. “He was an excellent officer, a good friend and a committed husband and father. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Parrish family. We ask that you keep them in your thoughts and prayers as well as the officers and civilians recovering from their injuries.”

A gofundme page had raised more than $102,000 as of Sunday night, and a company spokeswoman verified that the company is working with the organizer and guaranteed the Parrish family would receive the money.

However, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office asked people to avoid using gofundme pages because it difficult to validate legitimacy. Instead, the sheriff’s office asked that donations be directed to the Douglas County Fallen Officer Fund at

“Zack fed off adrenaline,” the gofundme page said. “From snowboarding in the backcountry to his job as Douglas County police officer, Zack didn’t back down to any challenges or fear.”

Parrish was always there for his friends, Scott wrote on the gofundme page.

“Giving scriptural advice to friends in need of advice, or offering up his free time to help his buddies with home projects” the page said. “Zack was selfless and a true friend to anyone that knew him.”

Knight, 35, met Parrish on an August 2016 police ride-along to serve as an unofficial interpreter. Knight, whose husband is a Castle Rock Police Department officer, once served as a court interpreter in the 18th Judicial District, which includes Douglas County.

On the ride-along, Knight learned Parrish could do impressions of famous people, and he could do an especially spot-on interpretation of Borat, the character played by Sacha Baron Cohen in the 2006 movie “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.”

“He had me laughing so hard the majority of the ride,” Knight said.

The other law enforcement officers injured in the shooting were: Douglas County deputies Deputy Michael Doyle, 28, Deputy Jeff Pelle, 32, and Deputy Taylor Davis, 30. Castle Rock police SWAT Officer Thomas O’Donnell, 41, also was injured, Spurlock said.

All were in stable condition as of Sunday afternoon, and the sheriff said he did not plan to provide any further updates during the night.

Pelle is the son of Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, and the sheriff posted on his Facebook page that his son was going to recover physically.

Jeff Pelle suffered a collapsed lung, punctured diaphragm, broken ribs and a lacerated liver. The elder Pelle thanked Douglas County deputies, paramedics and his son’s surgical team for saving his life.

“The injuries were serious but no longer life threatening!” Joe Pelle wrote on Facebook. “The emotional trauma, given the nature of the incident is a heavy load right now! The good news is his sense of humor is still intact! We appreciate your thoughts and prayers more than you know!!!”

The shooting drew attention from politicians, including President Donald Trump, who tweeted “My deepest condolences to the victims of the terrible shooting in Douglas County @DCSheriff, and their families.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper issued a statement expressing his sympathy to the Parrish family and wishing a speedy recovery to those who were injured and to the residents who were affected by the shooting.

“The call to protect and serve too often leads to this ultimate sacrifice,” Hickenlooper said. “We are grateful for the service of Deputy Parrish, his fellow deputies, and that of the Castle Rock police officer.  We pray for their and their families’ strength and resolve in the days and months ahead.”

On Sunday night, each house in Parrish’s cul-de-sac had a blue ribbon pinned to a tree. Deputies were posted outside the family home to protect their privacy.

©2017 The Denver Post

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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