Veterans of military service and law enforcement will tell you here are two types of heroes: the audacious and the everyday.
The everyday hero makes their mark with subtle, dependable leadership. The audacious hero rises to the occasion, exhibiting grace under pressure at the 11th hour.
As a father of five and a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Marshals Service, Patrick Carothers was known as an everyday hero. He held a high post in the Marshals Service, but always went out of his way to befriend those below him. The large, affectionate lawman didn’t give handshakes, family said, he’d give hugs. He was the kind of guy who led by example.
But when Carothers was slain Nov. 18 while attempting to bring a violent criminal into custody, he became something more.
On Thursday, Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal John Olson delivered Carothers’ burial flag to his father Pat Carothers’ North Douglas home. Pat himself served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam and was the highest-decorated member of the U.S. Marine Corps when he retired.
At 90 years old, Pat and his wife Elsie, 80, were unable to attend the funeral for health reasons.
Since Patrick’s death, the Carothers have learned just how many lives Patrick touched.
“It means a lot to recognize Patrick as the hero he was,” Pat said after receiving his son’s flag. “He led from the front. He came out a hero and his family can be very proud of him.”
In his role as a marshal, Olson serves as liason to grieving families whose loved ones died in the line of duty. He’s a liason for four other families, and now the Carothers.
“I can tell you the amazing testimony that every friend and colleaugue had, not because of the way he died, but because of the way he lived,” Olson said. “I marvel at what he left us. Very commonly the words would be said, ‘I now want to live my life that way. I want to go home and be the dad and husband that he was.’”
Carothers died while attempting to arrest 25-year-old Georgia man Dontrell Carter, wanted for attempted murder of police officers, domestic violence and unlawfully discharging a weapon during an incident in South Carolina in September.
After 26 years on the force, Carothers wasn’t expected to lead the charge into Carter’s single-wide trailer that day, but he wasn’t the type to let others face danger in his stead.
He entered the room Carter occupied first, taking two bullets. He was the only officer shot at the scene. Carter was also killed during the shootout.
“Pat followed my mentor’s example. General Chesty Puller, his motto was ‘lead from the front,’” Pat said, directing attention to a portrait of the famous general hanging on his wall. “You don’t let your troops go in first.”
“Twenty-six years on, he could have been back at a desk, but instead he was out there with his men leading,” Olson said. “Truly a hero in that regard, but not because that’s the way he died, but because that’s the way he would have done it everyday.”
Often when an officer dies in the line of duty, Olson said, people reflexively turn to “hero worship,” glossing over the negative and accentuating the positive as that is “what is needed at the time.”
Not so with Carothers: Olson said friends invariably remember the 53-year-old father of five as a great friend and a consummate family man.
Two thousand people flocked to his funeral services at Greater Atlanta Christian school in Atlanta, Georgia. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch spoke at a separate service at Norcross, Georgia.
“I am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of U.S. Marshals Service Deputy Commander Patrick Carothers — a devoted husband, a loving father and an outstanding public servant,” Lynch said in a news release. “Deputy Commander Carothers served the American people with fidelity and courage throughout his distinguished career. He stayed true to his oath to the last, laying down his life to keep his community safe and his neighbors secure.”
Carothers was the Deputy Commander of the Southwest Regional Task Force, a unit tasked solely with tracking down fugitives in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama, the kind of work he “gravitated toward,” a colleague said at his funeral services.
He held a brief stint as a police officer in Florida before joining the Marshals Service.
“He was always soaking it up, always eager to learn, whatever it took to get better. Sure enough he became one of our best,” a colleague said.
Three of Patrick Carothers’ children attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. One of whom, Paul, is currently a freshman on a football scholarship. His other two children, ages 9 and 17, live with their mother Terry in Atlanta.
Patrick was the youngest — and biggest — of five brothers, one of whom, Dan Carothers, lives in Juneau.
• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.