ATCHISON, Kan. | They lit the candles - first one, then hundreds - beneath a full moon.
More than 500 people gathered together Saturday night in this town of just over 10,000 to pay their respects to slain Atchison Police Sgt. David Enzbrenner, honoring him as an officer, a father, a friend.
The outpouring of support was emotional and immediate for the 46-year-old police veteran who was shot to death Friday in a murder-suicide while he was on duty.
At the vigil, Enzbrenner’s wife, Kerri, and his three daughters, Avery, Abbi and Celia, held each other close as they faced City Hall and two large photographs of their husband and father, mounted on easels, at the entrance of the building.
The ceremony was brief. A Police Officer’s Prayer was read, beginning “Lord, I ask for courage,” and the crowd was led through the 23rd Psalm. Enzbrenner was remembered as “a good and caring and loving person” taken too soon. Chief Wilson read a short statement from the family.
“We appreciate all the thoughts and prayers for David and our family. This is a tragic loss for us, his friends and our community. He is a true example of a faithful and dedicated family man, officer and friend.”
As the ceremony concluded with a recording of “Amazing Grace,” some in the crowd wept.
Among them was Cindy Dooley, an Atchison Police dispatcher.
She had made badges out of yellow paper, inscribed with Enzbrenner’s badge number, 309. She and many others wore them on their shoulders.
Throughout the crowd, Enzbrenner was remembered as more than a police officer.
“He was the greatest guy you could ever encounter,” said Bill Seager, 54, an Atchison fireman who attended the vigil with coworkers.
“Good dad. Good father. Good husband,” Ted Graf, 40, said. “I think we all wish we could have a little David Enzbrenner in us.”
Before the vigil, Police Chief Mike Wilson said he’d worked with Enzbrenner for all of the sergeant’s 24 years on the force.
“Law enforcement is a brotherhood,” Wilson said. “When you’re a small community, it’s even more of one. We know each other’s wives, we know each other’s husbands, we know each other’s children. It’s so tragic to us. It’s a family member.”
Wilson described Enzbrenner as a dedicated officer.
“He was a compassionate guy who, after 24 years, never became hardened.”
Earlier in the day, Enzbrenner’s police comrades saw to it that he came home with a hero’s escort.
Every Atchison police officer and several retired ones, civilian police employees, spouses and city officials gathered to escort the officer home in a solemn caravan with red and blue lights flashing.
Kansas law enforcement from throughout the area took over weekend operations in the community of just over 10,000 people for the Atchison Police Department, giving the small agency time to mourn and prepare for the funeral. Atchison County Sheriff’s deputies helped pick up calls. They were joined by neighboring county deputies, Kansas Highway Patrol troopers and officials from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
“When this happens, especially if it has happened before in your agency, you know what they’re going through and what they’re going to need,” Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Don Hughes said. “It’s part of that law enforcement brotherhood that brings us together.”
Investigators are still piecing together the details surrounding the shooting, including the motive. Enzbrenner was shot about 4 p.m. Friday when he was called to assist the city’s codes enforcement at a residence near 12th and Division streets in serving a nuisance order associated with scrap metal and junk.
Atchison County Sheriff John Calhoon, whose agency is leading the investigation, said the shooter, identified as 25-year-old Skyler Barbee, was neither the occupant of the home involved in the nuisance order nor a relative of the occupant.
Neighbors expressed shock.
“He was just here to serve a nuisance order. He was never expecting anything like that,” said Tabetha Cummins, 27. “It’s a shame. So tragic.”
Calhoon says Barbee came out of nowhere and shot Enzbrenner in the head before fatally shooting himself.
“We don’t have any idea at this point why he did it,” the sheriff said.
It wasn’t the first time Barbee had interacted violently with an officer. He was arrested by Atchison police in August on charges of vehicle burglary, battery on a law enforcement officer and obstruction of the legal process.
Atchison County prosecutor Jerry Kuckelman told the St. Joseph News-Press that Barbee was sentenced to 45 days in jail for battery on a law enforcement officer and had served that time.
“It’s been a rough day,” Calhoon said. “I’ve had to look at many officers grieve today. I’ve done so myself. It’s something I hope I never have to go through again in my career. In my 26 years, this probably hurts more than anything.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.