CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. - A week of mourning for a fallen Riverdale police major who died in the line of duty last week concluded Saturday as members of the community and fellow law enforcement officers gathered to lay him to rest.
Thousands of people gathered at Saint Philip AME Church to say their final goodbyes to Major Greg Barney, a beloved officer in the small Clayton County city of Riverdale. Major Barney was shot four times on February 11 while supervising the Clayton County Police Department's narcotics task force in serving a no-knock search warrant.
Major Barney's final resting place will be at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Remembering Major Greg Barney-Motorcade with Atlanta Police Department to depart from Turner Field at 9:30 a.m. pic.twitter.com/Gba1WMBIjI— FOX 5 Atlanta (@FOX5Atlanta) February 20, 2016
Thousands of people attended the visitation service for the beloved police major who was shot four times on February 11 while supervising the Clayton County Police Department's narcotics task force in serving a no-knock search warrant.
Friday, it was a solemn procession to bring the body of Major Barney from the funeral home led to Riverdale City Hall, where hundreds of residents were already waiting to pay their respects to the fallen officer.
As city leaders held a memorial service for Major Barney, more than a thousand people filed into City Hall, one by one, to have a moment of silence by the officer's open casket.
"He is a shining light of why America needs the police today," said former Atlanta Police Chief Eldrin Bell.
Law enforcement from around the Metro and around the nation came to the city's memorial service. One law enforcement officer, who wanted to remain unnamed, remarked he had never seen such an outpouring of support for a fallen officer.
Plenty of people standing in line for hours shared their personal memories of Major Barney.
"You see the lines. You see effect he has had on many people's lives in the community," said a former Riverdale reserve officer.
After the public viewing, a final procession from City Hall brought Major Barney's hearse in front of the police department, for his final ride through the city.
For many, it is hard to believe that it has been just over a week since the major was gunned down during a drug raid. His role in the raid was guarding the perimeter.
"Major Greg Barney was not part of the entry team for the warrant nor the perimeter security team," the GBI said on Tuesday.
According to the GBI, Major Barney spotted Jerand Ross, 24, running from behind an apartment at the Villages on the River, which is located on Church Street, while the SWAT team made entry. A foot chase followed and that's when shots were fired. Barney was struck in the abdomen, arm, leg and once in the lower back.
Major Barney, who was known for treating everyone with respect, was rushed to Southern Regional Medical Center, where he later died. He leaves behind a wife and twin sons.
The widow of Major Barney spoke to a crowd gathered to honor his memory Tuesday night in front of the Riverdale City Hall. It was the first time Lisa Barney spoke publicly since the deadly shooting last Thursday morning.
Lisa Barney thanked the crowd for the love and support they have shown for her family. Many attending the prayer vigil shouted “thank you” in response.
Immediately after the shots were fired at Barney, a Clayton County police officer, Lieutenant Francisco Romero, picked up the foot chase. Investigators said Ross pointed a gun at Lt. Romero, who then shot Ross in the head. He was taken to Atlanta Medical Center, where he continues to be treated for his injures.
The GBI said a witness spotted Ross carrying two handguns. He threw one of those guns into some woods behind an apartment building. Investigators said a K9 officer later found that weapon. Ross, who will face murder charges, is no stranger to law enforcement. Records show he was arrested by Cobb County Police in 2015 for robbery, battery and criminal damage to property.
Last Friday following the shooting, flags were lowered to half-staff and a moment of silence was observed in the afternoon hours. Across town, the American Flag draped a casket as it was taken into the South DeKalb Chapel during a small, solemn ceremony.
Residents said the loss of the 25-year police veteran has shaken the community to its core. Colleagues from the city of Riverdale remember Major Barney as a humble, well-respected leader who befriended plenty of citizens over his years of service in the city.
“He was still a police officer at heart. He didn't take much credence in the fact he had a white shirt, that he had a title,” said Nathaniel Mingo, assistant city manager. “It's been devastating for the city and the citizens in this community.”
Riverdale Municipal Court Judge Ronald Freeman remembers Barney as a man well-respected by the youth in his community, and even earned the respect of suspects and convicted criminals in court.
"I have never seen Major Barney disrespect anyone regardless of what they're charged with. He treated everyone with respect," Judge Freeman said. "He explained to them why what they did was wrong. They had a great amount of respect for him," the judge said, from his memories of Barney in the courtroom as a bailiff.
Many others who have known him for years saw Barney as a man who truly enjoyed talking to all people in the city and at city hall, and who enjoyed his work as an officer.
"He was the type of man who made you respect police officers and the law. Just because he respected you," said Riverdale resident Antonio White. “This is devastating. I know it was God's will but this is going to hurt this community and this police department for a long, long time. He was our hero."
White admired Barney so much that he kept the business card the officer gave him after Barney's promotion to major several years ago.
"We were about the same age, so watching him go from patrolman to major as a man of color in Riverdale was amazing. He made us all proud and made us want to do right because he commanded respect," White said.
“Some officers migrate from department to department and others find a home and they stay there,” said Riverdale Police Chief Todd Spivey on Thursday night. “This was Major Barney’s home, he loved it here.”
It was his home that he lovingly shared with his wife Lisa as well as his twin sons, Robert and Greg. The family released a statement Friday afternoon trying to find the right words in their time of mourning:
"As you can imagine, our hearts are heavy with the sudden passing of our dear Greg. He loved his job and took great pride in protecting and serving the City of Riverdale. We sincerely appreciate all of your prayers, words of encouragement, and reflections. We also thank you for respecting our privacy during this sensitive time. Greg was a great husband, loving father to twin boys and a caring friend. We will miss him dearly."
A fund has been set up through the Gold Shield Foundation of Atlanta to benefit his family. Those who wish to donate can do so at goldshieldatlanta.com.