‘A service heart’: S.C. police officer-FF/EMT remembered for devotion, kindness
First responders traveled from miles around to honor the memory of Roy “Drew” Barr who was shot and killed in the line of duty
BATESBURG-LEESVILLE, S.C. — Dress uniforms flooded into the Batesburg-Leesville High School Performing Arts Center Thursday afternoon. Firefighters, police officers and EMTs representing public safety agencies from miles around packed the Performing Arts Center and a nearby gym to say goodbye to a fallen colleague.
Cayce Police Officer Roy “Drew” Barr was shot and killed in the line of duty on April 24 while responding to an early morning domestic violence call. A memorial service to honor Barr followed a visitation held for family and friends earlier in the day.
“I know that Drew was fully aware this job could cost him everything,” fellow Cayce Police officer Evan Antley said during Barr’s eulogy, adding that Barr lived to serve. “I was amazed by his drive and personal commitment.”
Barr was 27 years old. His 28th birthday would have been June 24.
He is remembered as a person devoted to public service. He inspired his colleagues, who said veteran officers were motivated to be better because of his presence.
His police chief, Chris Cowan, said he looked at Barr as a “work son” who made him want to be a better man.
“Through his life, not his death,” Cowan said Barr taught him how he should be living.
Dedicated to public safety
Barr was community-oriented and remained active in church throughout his life.
“There are many of you who watched Drew grow up in this community,” Mark Williams, Barr’s former youth pastor, said.
Barr had been a Cayce police officer for six years at the time of his death. He’d worked as a patrol officer, a traffic safety officer and finally as a K9 officer, which Cowan called his true passion. Barr adored his narcotics dog, Molly, who he began working with in 2020.
Even before joining the police department, Barr had dedicated himself to public safety. He joined a small volunteer fire department at 14 years old, eventually working up to become a captain. By 19, he was involved both with volunteer fire departments and as an EMT with Lexington County EMS.
At the time of his death, Barr was a volunteer with the Monetta Volunteer Fire Department, his hometown department, where he had been involved for years.
Williams described Barr as a “genuinely good” person with “a service heart.” Williams recalled that as a teenager, Barr would carry around a medical kit, just in case. If a classmate fell and scraped their knee, Barr would delicately patch the injury.
Antley, Barr’s longtime colleague, also recalled examples of Barr’s kindness, and courage.
While training to become a sworn officer, Barr joined Antley on a ride-along that later turned violent. Barr and Antley were both shot while pursuing a suspect.
“Drew had completed about 10 weeks of law enforcement training before that happened,” Antley said. “He acted on sheer instinct.”
Antley credits Barr’s positive attitude and commitment to returning to work with aiding his own physical and mental recovery from that event.
A week before his death, Barr had asked his superiors for more responsibilities, Cowan said.
The day Barr died
On the morning Barr died, he was responding to a domestic violence call that came in just before 3 a.m. A woman called police from the house using her Apple Watch at 2:48 a.m. Sunday, Cowan said.
The suspected gunman, 36-year-old Austin Henderson, killed himself after a seven-hour standoff with law enforcement, police said.
Henderson was in the upper level of a house tracking police with a rifle when officers arrived in response to the call. Police had already cuffed one man on the lawn, a family friend who met officers when they arrived at the scene. He was not charged with a crime.
Barr was the second officer to arrive at the scene just moments after the initial call. When shots rang out, Barr was struck, “killing him immediately,” Cowan said.
The day after Barr’s death, local law enforcement agencies held a processional to honor his life and “commitment to keeping our community safe.”
Many entities, including the Columbia Police Department, flew flags at half-staff Thursday to honor Barr’s memory.
Prior to his death, Barr had been promoting the Steel Paws Initiative to benefit K9 programs in Lexington and Richland counties. The program is a fundraiser coordinated with Steel Hands Brewery.
Barr’s family asks that mourners support either the Steel Paws Initiative or to the Cayce Police Department Foundation.
Barr did not take much time off work, but when he did he loved fishing, hunting and spending time with friends, according to his obituary. He is survived by his parents and a sister.
Barr is interred at the Mt. Ebal Baptist Church Cemetary in Batesburg-Leesville.