Wake County Sheriff’s deputy Ned Byrd was remembered — with tears and laughter — for his selfless, fulfilled and adventurous life.
One of the first things friends noticed about Byrd was how strong he was, both physically and mentally.
“The biggest muscle in Ned’s body was his heart,” said his close friend Jason Culbreth at Byrd’s funeral service Friday at Providence Baptist Church. “He gave and gave, and because of this, he received a lot of love. ... He would give the shirt off his back, literally.”
Hundreds of people, many of them law enforcement officers, filled Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh to honor Byrd, who was fatally shot while on duty a week ago. He was 48.
Dozens more were outside to watch the N.C. State Highway Patrol’s Caisson Unit bring Byrd’s casket to the church. The bright red-and-white stripes of the American flag were in sharp contrast to the sea of dark blue and gray uniforms as the procession of horses circled the perimeter of the church.
At the front of it all was Byrd’s beloved K9 partner, Sasha, accompanied by a deputy.
The funeral came a day after an arrest was made in the shooting. Thursday, Arturo Marin-Sotelo was arrested and charged with Byrd’s murder. The Wake County Sheriff’s Office has said there could be more arrests.
On Aug. 11, Byrd was shot and killed in a rural area on Battle Bridge Road near Auburn Knightdale Road after clearing the scene of a domestic incident.
Byrd was a 13-year veteran of the Wake County Sheriff’s Office.
Friday, as Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” one of Byrd’s favorite songs, played on the church speakers, an officer brought Sasha to the casket at the front of the church. The dog tried to jump on top of it before slipping off to sniff it.
Ryan Schmidt, a close friend and former roommate of Byrd, said the fallen deputy was “difficult to forget,” sharing stories about Byrd’s life and their relationship. Others echoed that Byrd was a man with a zest for life, one who always valued the relationships he formed and the experiences he shared with his friends and colleagues.
“Although he ultimately gave his life serving a much larger purpose in itself, it was the everyday seemingly small acts and interaction interactions that find his kindness, his character,” he said.
‘Today is about Deputy Byrd’
Gov. Roy Cooper spoke at the beginning of the service, saying the “people of North Carolina are grateful for his life and for him.”
“I cannot imagine the trauma, shock, the anger or heartbreak that you all feel,” Cooper said. “That is felt by so many people who knew him.”
Cooper gave a nod to law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day.
“I think all of us in the state, in this country, need to do everything we can for better pay, better benefits, better training, better equipment, better retirement, things that we need to do to lift up law enforcement,” he said. “All of us will work together to try to make sure that that happens. But today is about Deputy Byrd.”
Byrd was one of several law enforcement officers around the state who have been shot in the line of duty in recent weeks. He was the second to be killed. His death has drawn an outpouring of support and mourning across the state.
Friday, a small group of onlookers awaited the procession huddled underneath an American flag on the corner of Glenwood Avenue and Pleasant Valley Road.
Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker told the crowd that on the night Byrd was killed, he arrived at the scene where Byrd was found and vowed to find whoever was responsible for killing him.
“We’re close, but we’re not done,” he said.
He thanked the law enforcement officers who worked to make arrests in the case and asked them to stand up to be recognized.
“This is a dangerous job, it gets more dangerous each and everyday,” Baker said before Journey’s “Faithfully” played in the church. “It’s not a job, it’s a commitment. ... It’s being willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice,”
A lasting influence
Byrd was a New York native and started working for the Sheriff’s Office in 2009 as a detention officer transporting inmates. He became a deputy in 2018. Byrd loved dogs and made applied to become a K9 deputy. Schmidt remembered how proud Byrd was when he got Sasha, who was still in the SUV at the time of his death.
Byrd was passionate about fitness, cycling and the outdoors. He was active in CrossFit and jiu jitsu, and had been training for 15 years at the Royce Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy in Raleigh.
Many of those who spoke Friday knew him through those pasttimes.
Conrad Faust, one of Byrd’s friend, said they met more than 25 years ago and trained with him in jiu jitsu. Faust said Byrd always kept his word.
For Labor Day in 2019, a group of Byrd’s friends were going to get together and were short on toilet paper, Faust said. After telling Byrd, Faust recalled, “he brought over 30 packages of toilet paper, something like 190 rolls of toilet paper.”
“Conveniently enough, it was actually enough to get their friends through the shortage of 2020,” he said with a laugh.
Faust said his friend had a big influence on himself and other friends by challenging them and making memories, which are now part of his legacy.
“He set the bar very high for all of us and I just hope we can live up to it,” Faust said.
Schmidt thanked the attendees and law enforcement who had been supportive of Byrd’s family and friends.
“We’re forever grateful to you for making sure Ned receives a respected tribute and goodbye,” he said.
10-42 for the last time
After Byrd was eulogized, two Wake County Sheriff’s officers folded the American flag that rested on his casket, giving it to a family member as law enforcement stood at attention.
Over the speaker, a sheriff’s deputy gave the final “10-42” code call to indicate the end of Byrd’s service as a Wake County Sheriff’s Office deputy, followed by moments of silence.
Attendees exited the church holding yellow flowers to symbolize strong friendship bonds with the departed.
According to his obituary, Byrd is survived by his sister, her husband and numerous other relatives.