Response to deputy's death overwhelming

The shooting death of Sedgwick County sheriff's Deputy Brian Etheridge has touched off a national outpouring of sympathy.

"The family is overwhelmed right now at the amount of caring people have shown," said Lt. David Mattingly, who is serving as a liaison between Etheridge's family and the Sheriff's Office. "They've had all kinds of requests. Food constantly is being brought in."

Etheridge, 26, was ambushed and killed Monday after responding to a report of a theft in the 3600 block of South Rock Road. He leaves a wife, Sarah, and daughter, Natalie.

By Wednesday afternoon, more than 3,600 people had joined an Internet Facebook group honoring Etheridge, and more than 180 of them had posted messages of condolence.

More than 260 messages had been posted on a condolence book set up on T he Eagle's Web site, Kansas.com. People from New York to California and places between — Ohio, Florida, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Oregon and other states — had responded.

Most messages were from people expressing shock and offering prayers for the family. Some were from law enforcement people and relatives of law enforcement officers, expressing the bond they feel with the family.

Highway patrol officers from Ontario, Canada, posted a message in the book expressing their "deepest respect and sympathy to the family of Officer Etheridge. May they take comfort in knowing their husband, father, son, and brother is a hero."

Police and other law enforcement officers and organizations from all over the country posted messages on the national Officer Down Memorial Page Web site.

Mattingly said the Sheriff's Office decided to set up a memorial fund for Etheridge rather than try to address all the family needs individually.

Those wishing to make donations can do so at any Intrust Bank by stating the donation is for the Brian S. Etheridge Memorial Fund.

Mattingly, who had never served as a family liaison before, said he was overwhelmed by the response, as well.

"It's unbelievable the amount of e-mails that have come in,'' he said.

Honor guards from all over country want to come in for the Friday's funeral and show their support, he said.

The response has been so heavy that the department is trying to keep its true focus in mind, he said.

"We want to make sure Sarah and the rest of the family are taken care of the best we can," Mattingly said.

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