Cooper Dyson was a man who knew what he wanted, and what he wanted was to serve and protect.
He did so as a hazardous boat crew member with the U.S. Coast Guard. He did so as a Pierce County sheriff’s deputy. He did so as a husband and father.
Dyson’s courage and selflessness garnered the 25-year-old admiration, but it was partially his commitment to serve that led to the deputy’s death Dec. 21 as he sped to a domestic violence call where two of his colleagues had requested backup.
“Anyone who knew Cooper knew he loved his job. He loved the work, a lot,” said deputy David Rose, a training officer who befriended the younger deputy. “Cooper loved to be counted on, and he loved helping those he could.”
About 2,000 people gathered Monday at the Tacoma Dome to honor Dyson, who joined the department 16 months ago.
Friends and colleagues described Dyson as deeply religious, eager to help and a devout family man.
With his daughter, Hallie, expected to be born in January, Dyson was working up to 16-hour shifts daily to save enough money so he could take time off when the baby came.
He doted on his wife, Brittany, who he met in high school and married in 2014. Their son, Luke, was born two years later.
Dyson’s “work wife,” deputy Ian Schwartz, said his best friend was a hard worker who would do anything for anyone.
“He never wanted to celebrate himself — he wanted to celebrate what he could do for others,” Schwartz said.
Hired at the same time, the two young deputies would call each other after every shift to catch up. Schwartz broke down crying when he came home from work the other day and picked up the phone to call Dyson before realizing he’d never talk to his friend again.
Dyson was working the graveyard shift Dec. 21 when two deputies called for help about 3 a.m.
They’d been fighting for seven minutes with a Parkland man suspected of assaulting his 6-year-old developmentally delayed sister. The suspect could not be detained with tasers, pepper spray or forcible restraint tactics, the Sheriff’s Department reported.
Dyson was the first to respond.
As he sped to the scene, he lost control of his patrol car on a rain-slicked road and struck a lumber business on 113th Street South. The vehicle rolled and caught fire 1 1/2 miles from the house he was rushing to.
Dyson was pronounced dead at the scene.
His Bible, which he kept in the patrol car so he could read a scripture and pray before each work shift, did not burn.
As Sheriff Paul Pastor addressed thousands of solemn faces Monday, he first turned to Dyson’s family.
“I’m sorry, I don’t have adequate words for you,” Pastor said.
He then talked about the deputy’s focus on the well-being of others and his strong character.
“His heart was well-aligned to a willingness to sacrifice on behalf of others; to accept a difficult calling; and yes, its risks,” Pastor said. “We lost Cooper as he sought to protect an abused child and two of his deputies who needed help. He answered his calling righteously. He wore his badge righteously. He stood as a righteous man.”
Law enforcement officers from as far away as Idaho and Vancouver, B.C., turned out to honor Dyson at Monday’s service.
It started with a procession of about 200 police and fire vehicles leaving Joint Base Lewis-McChord at 11 a.m. They arrived at the Tacoma Dome at 11:45 a.m., led by a riderless horse.
Uniformed officers lined up outside the auditorium door and along the street as six pallbearers rolled a flag-draped casket down the corridor. White-gloved hands came up in a silent salute as they passed. They remained at attention as the family filed in.
At the front of the Dome, mementos of Dyson’s life were displayed next to his casket.
There was his high school diploma, a U.S. Coast Guard award for good conduct, fishing rods, his high school football jersey, a sheriff’s vest and badge, and a memorial poster with names of all the Pierce County sheriff’s deputies who have died in the line of duty.
Dyson was the eighth.
A video of his life projected onto two large screens. It showed him standing proudly in a Coast Guard uniform, at his swearing-in ceremony, singing country songs, dressed up for a school dance, mugging for the camera with his wife, sleeping with his infant son on his chest, posing proudly with extended family.
Buglers played taps. An officer rang a bell 21 times to honor Dyson. An honor guard ceremoniously folded the flag draped over the casket and presented it to the family.
Then came the last call.
A dispatcher called Dyson’s number — 579 — and received no answer.
“579 out of service,” the dispatcher said. “Gone but not forgotten.”