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Friday, August 1, 2014

Deputy was quiet, funny, passionate about his work

BY FRED MANN
The Wichita Eagle

Brian Etheridge was a quiet man, but that was on the surface.

He masked an off-the-wall sense of humor that he could turn loose without warning.

Friends said he would sit quietly during a gathering, take everything in, then deliver the comment that was always perfect for the moment.

"It would be so funny and fitting," said Shara McMahon, whose husband, Shawn, went through the academy with Deputy Etheridge. McMahon said she and her husband became close friends with Deputy Etheridge and his wife, Sarah.

"Brian was a very quiet person, but away from the limelight and spectacle of society, when it was just him and his family, he was very funny," McMahon said. "He loved life."

Deputy Etheridge married his high school sweetheart, and they were a perfect couple, friends said. Nobody could imagine two people more perfectly suited for each other.

They had a 2-year-old daughter and a perfect life before them.

But on Monday, Deputy Etheridge was ambushed and shot to death while responding to a report of a theft in the 3600 block of South Rock Road. He was 26.

Sheriff Bob Hinshaw said Tuesday that Sarah Etheridge, who works at Wesley Medical Center, was in "a deep state of shock," but had her parents, brothers and sisters and Brian's family with her.

He also said those who worked closely with Deputy Etheridge "are impacted tremendously by this."

Hinshaw said a critical incident stress debriefing team, an employee assistance program and counselors are available to help those close to Etheridge.

"No matter how often you hear about it or how often you have to face the stark reality, it's something you never get over, and its something that you hope you never have to address again," Hinshaw said. "It could have been any law enforcement officer."

Hinshaw said Deputy Etheridge was passionate about his work.

"This is what he wanted to do, be a law enforcement officer and work at protecting the community. He was well respected and very much liked by the deputies he worked with and members of other agencies," Hinshaw said.

Brian Etheridge graduated from Derby High School in 2001.

During high school, he and Sarah and his brother, Eric, worked together at El Paso Animal Clinic in Derby.

Brian was the quiet one, said Angie Jones, a receptionist at the clinic.

"They were the kind of kids you hope your own turn out to be like," she said. "Nowadays it's hard to find kids like that."

Brian, she said, loved animals and brought a dog in with him sometimes.

"He just had a way about him," Jones said. "You just liked him."

Brian Etheridge worked at the juvenile detention facility before attending a 22-week joint training academy for police officers and sheriff's deputies.

He was in a class of seven, all extremely close, Shara McMahon said. For six months, they sweated the same sweat, did the same drills.

"It was a brotherhood," she said.

The McMahons and Etheridges and others would go out together during those days, she said. The guys played pool while the women talked.

"Brian wouldn't always chime in and laugh and joke along with the conversation," Shara McMahon said. "He'd wait and deliver some out-of -the-blue comment."

The class graduated Dec. 12. Then they had eight weeks of field training with a veteran deputy.

Deputy Etheridge was on the streets alone for perhaps seven months before he died.

Gov. Mark Parkinson said in a written statement that the shooting was a "shocking and tragic reminder of the risk that law enforcement officers face every day in serving our state — we can never thank them enough for all that they do, it truly is a debt we cannot repay.

"My thoughts and prayers are with Deputy Etheridge's family, friends and fellow officers. I join all other Kansans in mourning this incredible loss."

The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Peter Catholic Church in Schulte.

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