March 29, 2010 · Updated 4:27 PM
The community paid its respects to Federal Way police officer Brian M. Walsh on March 26 during a memorial rich with tradition.
Walsh, 34, died March 21 as police investigated a crime scene involving a stolen vehicle in the 33300 block of 26th Avenue S.W. Walsh was among officers who set up a perimeter around the area after one suspect fled the scene. Walsh was found collapsed in his patrol vehicle around 6:45 a.m. CPR was administered, but to no avail. The medical examiner declared Walsh's cause of death a heart attack.
The memorial took place at Federal Way's Christian Faith Center. It included honor and color guard, a bagpipe and drum band, a slideshow of Walsh's life and the reading of the "Policeman's Prayer." Walsh was remembered as a quiet man, an Ohio State Buckeyes fan, a loving husband and father, and a dedicated and hard-working cop.
"Brian was conscientious; he was kind," Police Chief Brian Wilson said. "He took pride in his job."
Walsh was born in Germany, but spent most of his life in Fairborn, Ohio. After high school, he joined the Air National Guard. In 2000, he became a deputy with the Greene County Sheriff's Department in Ohio. He came to Federal Way in 2005.
"I'd like to think it was the department who brought him here, but in actuality, it was Vanessa," Wilson said.
Walsh met his wife, Vanessa, a year earlier during a two-week Air National Guard training session in San Antonio. The two had an instant connection, but parted ways at the end of the training. Brian returned to Ohio and Vanessa to Washington. They later realized one of them must move.
"We could never really take being apart," Vanessa Walsh said.
Brian would apply to only one police department in Washington. If he got the job, he would move to Washington. If he did not, Vanessa would move to Ohio. His move to Federal Way was the start of another chapter in his life and career.
In Federal Way, Walsh quickly gained a reputation for being a quiet, but hard-working man. From the start, fellow officers realized Walsh was not much of a talker, Lt. Brett Hatfield said. He proved his worth through his actions. Walsh performed his duties in a consistently professional manner. He didn't believe in calling in sick unless he was sick.
"Even though he didn't talk much, when he did speak, people listened to him," Hatfield said.
Only a few years into his job in Federal Way, Walsh made an impact. In 2007, he earned the Life Saving Award. Again, in 2008, he proved his dedication to the Federal Way Police Department. On a June night, Walsh was among the first responders to a call involving an infant. The baby's father had fallen asleep at a campfire with the boy in his arms. He awoke to find his infant son laying burned and dead in the campfire pit. When officers arrived, the man was crying and clutching his deceased son, refusing to surrender the boy's body. While officers held the man, Walsh removed the infant from his father's arms. Walsh had an infant son of his own at home.
"It was at that moment I realized Brian Walsh was the strongest man I'd ever met," Hatfield said.
As deep as his love for being a cop was Walsh's love for his family. Most conversations at the start of the shift began with an update on his family, Hatfield said.
"While I know Brian was very into being a cop, the dedication to his family was in a league of its own," Hatfield said.
Walsh's stepdaughter, Kira Gilbert, said she grew to love him and accept him as the father figure in her life. She fully approved of her mom's marriage.
"We love you Brian," Kira said. "We'll miss you more than words can express."
Walsh's best friend, officer Chris Martin, fought back tears as he recalled his and Walsh's family going on vacations together. He remembered Walsh as a reliable friend and cop.
"Brian was my best friend and a very good partner," Martin said. "We'd go on calls together and I knew I could count on him."
Federal Way Mayor Linda Kochmar and law enforcement told the Walsh family they will not be alone during this hard time.
"Our community will long feel the pain of this loss," Kochmar said. "Please know this city, this community and people far beyond the reach of my voice are with you."
Video from the service
Below is a short video from the memorial service. A photo slideshow can be viewed at the top of this story.