Thursday, July 28, 2011


After his father died in 2008, Richard Joseph “Rick” Daly never failed to cut his mother's lawn each weekend. His daughter, Amber Wright, suggested hiring a teenager, but Daly insisted on doing it himself.  "He said it was his job."
The oldest of six children, Daly took care of his little brothers and sisters the same way, working as a teenager at a Lakewood convenience store and bringing home a gallon of milk and a bag of Oreos each week.
In the world of law enforcement, where dependability is measured in lives saved or lost, he was the sort of cop other cops want to serve beside. "I would trust Rick Daly with my life any day of the week," said Kyle Stevens, a lieutenant with the Clayton County Police Department. "You knew he had your back."
His dedication made its mark. "My entire life I wanted to be like him," said his son, Toby Daly, a tattooed, chip-off-the-block who followed in his father’s footsteps and is a lieutenant with the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office. "Everything I did was to make him proud."
Daly, 55, a deputy with the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office, was taking care of his law enforcement family last week, offering backup to the fugitive squad during a traffic stop, when suspect Veasna Jonathan Bun allegedly unloaded a .40 caliber Glock at point blank range.
A bullet struck Daly below his protective vest, and Rick Daly, a one-man safety net for his family and law enforcement brothers, bled to death.
Earlier this week his wife, Cheryl, and the two children gathered at her modest bungalow in a new Zebulon subdivision to plan his funeral, which will be held today at the First Baptist Church Jonesboro.
Toby is traveling to Zebulon daily to make sure his mom isn't alone, taking care of her just as Rick took care of his mother, Joyce. His father told him, "Your time will come one day and that’s what you will do."
Says Toby, "I just didn’t know it would come so soon.”
As they planned the services, they leafed through an old photo album, his father's life in stop motion:
Here is the 6′2″ teenager on his wedding day, his 1970s tuxedo accented with a ruffled shirt, his hair a wild halo of curls.
Here is the serious (and shorn) young man graduating from Clayton County Regional Police Academy in 1987, where his supervisor called him a “tough cookie.”
Here is the gray-haired "Pawpaw," horsing around with the grandchildren he adored, pushing a lawnmower at his mother’s house.
The man they will bury inspired many through his steady faith, humble attitude and a willingness to mix it up.
As a member of the Nighthawks street drug interdiction unit in the 1980s and '90s, Daly faced dangerous characters. "Daily, he might have to put his hands on somebody," said Shawn Southerland, Clayton's assistant chief deputy, his badge wrapped in a black mourning band.
But even when taking down a bad guy, Daly never resorted to bad language.
"Nope, nope," said Lee Hudson, a fellow K-9 officer during those Nighthawk days. "It was almost with a smile on his face. We all fall short of the glory of God, but he fell a lot less short than I did."
As a grade-schooler, Daly idolized the evangelists at Macon Drive Baptist Church, the family's home church.
He and Cheryl, whose father was a preacher, met at church and married seven months later. They considered becoming missionaries as a young couple, but he worked at the Atlantic Steel factory instead. He joked with friend Donald Colburn that he switched to law enforcement because it was safer than pouring molten metal all day.
Starting out with the Clayton County Police Department, Daly became certified as a K-9 officer, and became inseparable from his partner, a black Lab named Bo. Bo was followed by Woden, a Belgian Malinois, and Rinti, a German shepherd, all of whom lived at the Dalys' Riverdale home.,
Other than their contact with the dogs, his family seldom got a peek into the world of police work.  "I would beg him to tell me about his day, and he would pick out some stories that weren’t too life-threatening, to shut me up," said his mother, Joyce, 74.
"He was a do-er, not a talker," said Toby.
In his 40s Rick Daly tried leaving law enforcement for private security work, but realized he needed to beef up his retirement and needed the health benefits to take care of his family. Plus, he missed the action. He was 51 and an old man in a young man’s job when he put the badge back on.
Daly was operating on his considerable experience and instincts last week when he approached the car in which Bun, a 17-year-old wanted in connection with an armed robbery, was a passenger. During a felony stop, Clayton officers are trained to stay with their own cars and call to the suspect with their public address system, said Sheriff Kem Kimbrough.
When Bun's door flew open, "I think Rick thought the guy was going to run, and he was preparing to chase him," said Southerland. A distance runner, Daly was formidable on foot, he added. "In this job you have to make split-second decisions. It's a hard call. You can’t run with a gun in your hand."
Hundreds of law enforcement officers combed through the nearby woods for the suspect, before arresting him Wednesday evening. Many more are expected at today's services.
It is a duty and an honor, they say, to accompany one of their colleagues on his final patrol. "We fought together, we laughed together, we ran together, we trained together," said Colburn, a 36-year veteran, now an investigator with the Clayton Sheriff’s Office. "He bled for the people of Clayton County, and I hope they realize what a sacrifice he and his family made for them."