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'He was always happy.' Chaplain with Richland County Sheriff's Department dies from COVID-19

Chaplain Terry Joel Barrett is the department's first line-of-duty death related to coronavirus pandemic

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott announced the department’s first line-of-duty death due to COVID-19 is the man that counsels and aids the department through difficult times.

Chaplain Terry Joel Barrett, 69, of Columbia died in the hospital on Sunday, Jan. 31, from complications due to the COVID-19 virus.

According to Lott, Barrett started his career with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department in January 1976. He served in different capacities and attained the rank of Lieutenant in Investigations where he retired from full active service in 2012.

Lott said Barrett was a great investigator, too. He recalled a story of Barrett using his faith to help an investigation. "We had a murder suspect that nobody was able to get to talk," explained Lott. "Lieutenant Barrett, at the time, said ‘gimme a chance,’ and he took him off to the corner and he prayed with him, he prayed with him, and the guy confessed to the murder."

Barrett’s call to continue to serve brought him back to work as a Chaplain shortly after retiring. In his new role, he counseled deputies and supported them through some difficult times. 

"He was always happy," said Lott. "I just can’t think of a day that I saw him mean, mad or sad. He just seemed to always be upbeat and always look for the good in people."

He also served as a minister at a Columbia church. "His religion and his ministry were very important to him," said Lott. 

Many of Barrett's church members gave their condolences online, including Kashima Brown. She wrote to News19 that Barrett was her pastor for years and consistently checked in on her and her family.

"He always found the time to either call or stop by my house to see how we were doing, even after we found another church home," said Brown. "He was one of the first ones to call and pray for my family, during the loss of my mother this past November.”

Lott told News19 Barrett is survived by his wife and children. There are no announced funeral plans at this time. 

The sheriff asks that the public please keep the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and Chaplain Barrett’s family in your thoughts and prayers.

Credit: Richland County Sheriff's Department