Community mourns death of Cowlitz Co. Deputy DeRosier: 'He was a big part of everything'

Photo of Deputy Justin DeRosier and his infant daughter, Lily, from his wife, Katie.

KELSO, Wash. – Southwest Washington is mourning the loss of a Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Deputy who was shot and killed in the line of duty overnight Saturday (April 13).

Those who worked with Deputy Justin DeRosier say he had deep roots in the Kelso community, a passion for law enforcement, and love for his friends and family.

He is survived by his wife, Katie, and their five-month-old daughter, Lily.

Cowlitz County is flying flags at half-staff in his honor. Local law enforcement agencies also lined Interstate 5 overpasses Monday evening, presumably to honor the deputy as his body was being transported.

“There are few cops who want to be cops more than Justin did. He loved his job, and he was incredibly good at it,” Cowlitz County Undersheriff Darren Ullmann said. “Five-month-old Lily is always going to know what an incredible man her father was.”

DeRosier has lots of family in the Kelso-Longview area. He graduated from Kelso High School in 2008.

He went on to Washington State University in Pullman, Washington where he graduated in 2012 with a degree in criminal justice.

DeRosier’s career in law enforcement started in 2013 when he was hired by the Whitman County Sheriff’s Office, which services the Pullman area. He served there for three years on the SWAT team and as a boat operator.

He returned home in 2016 and joined the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office as a patrol deputy. Officials said he also worked as a boat operator, and was set to join the drug task force as a narcotics investigator on July 1, 2019.

Christine McDaniel was a teacher at Kelso High when Justin was a senior.

“We're a very close-knit community,” said McDaniel, now principal of the school. “I'm sure you've heard people say constantly 'We Are Kelso,' and Justin believed that to the core.”

Cowlitz County Sheriff Brad Thurman says Deputy DeRosier's death hits the entire law enforcement community, including officers from Alaska and Oregon, who went through criminal justice courses with him at Washington State University.

“He was such a big part of everything. He had one speed and that was fast,” said Sheriff Thurman. “His grandmother was our county auditor for many years. He had the politics in his blood. He certainly had the desire. But he had an unlimited future and, yeah, it's going to be a huge, huge void for us.”

“(He was) really a nice guy,” said Ray Lindsey, who knew DeRosier as a child. “He was, he was super nice and I just feel bad for his family and his kids. It's heartbreaking.”

On Sunday night, community members gathered in Longview to hold a candlelight vigil in his honor.

Family members say they've asked for privacy right now.

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