Each time Terryl Warner arrived at a crime scene in northern Utah’s Cache County — hundreds of times over the past decade — she would scan the crowd of police officers and detectives for Lt. Brian Locke.
He was never too hard to find.
Locke stood roughly 6 feet 6 inches and towered over other responders. Warner, at 5 feet 2 inches, often had to stand on her tiptoes as she searched, and nicknamed him “the gentle giant.”
She responded to accidents and homicides as a victim advocate; he was often there as both a regional medical examiner for the state and as the liaison for the sheriff’s department. She would introduce him to families who needed help. He would make sure they got it.
“He was always willing to do whatever it took,” Warner said. “He worked very hard. And he was very good at his job.”
Locke, who spent 32 years with the Cache County Sheriff’s Office, died Saturday in an UTV accident while off duty. During his tenure, he served in every division, including as a jail deputy, patrol officer, detective and sergeant before being promoted to lieutenant in 2004. Most of that time, he worked alongside Warner.
The part he loved most, she said, was helping someone who’d experienced the worst day of their life get to a spot where they believed the best day was still ahead of them.
“He was good at working with people,” Warner reflected. “He was one that could handle the pressures and the crises and the trauma with a very calm demeanor.”
Locke’s death has shocked his small community on the border of Utah and Idaho. Many residents there have changed their pictures on Facebook to police badges wrapped in a black band. Chief Deputy Matt Bilodeau could hardly talk about Locke without choking up.
“We grew up together in this office,” he said.
Locke started with the department in September 1986. Bilodeau came on four months later. The two worked on patrol together and moved up the ranks at the same time, becoming sergeants and lieutenants side by side.
Locke had a quick wit, Bilodeau said, was kind and easygoing. “He had a heart almost as big as he was and he was almost six-foot-seven.”
Bilodeau said he’ll be keeping his memories of Locke “close to vest” as he mourns losing a colleague and a friend. Locke’s family has asked for privacy.
On Saturday night, Locke was driving a UTV in Paradise Dry Canyon, six miles from the town of Paradise. The vehicle rolled about 50 yards off the side of the road, pinning the lieutenant below it.
Medical crews transported him to a local hospital, where he died from his injuries. Locke is survived by his wife, Shelly, and two daughters.
He was a board member of the Utah Peace Officers Association and served as the legislative chair for the Utah Law Enforcement Legislative Committee. In a statement Monday, the sheriff’s office noted that Locke “passionately followed and tracked every bill and piece of legislation impacting law enforcement.”
“Brian was a devoted deputy sheriff through and through,” his department wrote. “He had a great love and pride for our office and everyone he ever worked with. Brian was a respected friend, mentor and leader to all who were privileged to work with him. He will be greatly missed.”
Locke also helped plan Utah’s annual “Ride for the Fallen” event recognizing officers who died in the field. And Warner said he constantly looked for ways to improve “gaps in programs.” The two responded to a traumatic death in North Logan about two weeks ago where, she said, he thought of how to fix one last gap.
A man had died and his family was standing outside their home, not able to go inside during the investigation. Warner made several trips in and out, bringing them medication and toothbrushes, shoes and phone chargers. But all she had to put the items in was a white plastic trash bag provided by the department.
“This is a problem, and we need to figure out what to do here,” she remembers Locke saying from the living room. He wanted the family to have the necessities they needed to get through the night — and some dignity in the face of the tragedy.
“Brian,” Warner responded, “I don’t have any grant funding for this.”
“Go out and find somebody,” he said.
A week later, she did — a private donor who was willing to fund new backpacks with hygiene kits for families in crisis. She called Locke to tell him Friday. They were going to present the idea to his bosses Wednesday.
“He was really excited,” she said.
Now Warner will move forward with the project without Locke. She’ll no longer see him at crime scenes, either. But she’ll remember what he did to effect change and how he looked in the light of police sirens.
He was taller than anybody, she said, but his actions were what “really commanded attention.”