Bryan and Tyler Dailey's father, Harford County Sheriff's Office Senior Deputy Patrick Dailey, may have been suddenly taken from them a year ago Friday when he was fatally shot inside an Abingdon restaurant, but the brothers say their dad is still with them every day.
"I always feel like he's there with us. At his house, at the firehouse, out doing something, I always feel like he's there protecting me," Bryan said..
Tyler, who moved back into his dad's house in January, feels his dad's presence there, especially. The front door opened by itself the other day, he said, and he thinks it was his father, who was known to pull a prank or two on his sons.
"I feel like Dad is there," he said.
The first anniversary of Senior Deputy Dailey's death is bringing back a lot of memories of that day at Panera Bread in the Boulevard at Box Hill, where he was fatally wounded, and the days and weeks that followed with viewings and the funerals for Senior Deputy Daily and for Deputy First Class Mark Logsdon, who rushed to his fellow officer's aid and was fatally shot when he pursued the suspect, David Brian Evans, to a nearby parking lot. Evans was then shot to death by other deputies.
Just as their lives had started to return to some semblance of normal, Bryan, 21, and Tyler, 18, said, the anniversary has crept up on them.
"It seemed like things had started to calm down. Now we're getting to a year and stuff on Facebook keeps coming up. People are messaging me, saying I'm here for you," Bryan said. "I think as the years go on, it will get a little bit easier, but it's never going to be the same."
In the last week, it's really hit Tyler that his dad is gone.
"I wake up and I wonder if Dad is still alive, then I think, hold on, no, he's not," Tyler said.
Both of them intend to attend Friday's remembrance ceremony that will include a moment of silence, as well as the sounding of emergency sirens, at the memorial to their father and to Deputy First Logsdon. The memorial is in the middle of the traffic circle at the Boulevard at Box Hill, alongside the portion of Route 924 that was renamed "Heroes Highway" by an act of the Maryland General Assembly and Gov. Larry Hogan.
Both young men are angry over their father's death.
"The way he was killed, it bothers me," Tyler said. "It actually infuriates me, to see how cowardly somebody could be to do that."
Police say Evans shot the deputy without provocation when Senior Deputy Daily tried to talk with him at a table inside the eatery. The deputy had responded to a complaint from Evans' estranged family that he had been seen in the area and might be thinking of harming them.
"If I could change anything, it would be if my dad pulled his firearm and killed the guy instead of being blindsided," Tyler said.
Bryan said he despises Evans.
"I have no encouraging thoughts about him," he said.
"I'm glad that he was terminated. I'm glad that the sheriff's office ensured swift justice," Tyler added.
Growing up quick
The past year hasn't been an entirely terrible time for the brothers.
Both said they see the first anniversary of their father's death as an opportunity to move on, for things to get back to as close to normal as they can be.
"I see the year mark as, it's been a year, it's time for me to start making steps forward in my life, not be held up by it," Tyler said. "It's a turning point for me, a boost. It's time now to start being an adult, start doing what you need to do."
Both say they already have become adults in many ways, likely earlier than they intended, since their father was gunned down.
"It's been the fastest year, but the slowest year. When everything happened, time was just dragging, the days couldn't end. Now it's like, time has caught back up and it's going at a normal speed," Bryan said. "I still have flashbacks every now and then of everything that happened. It's definitely one of the toughest times I've ever had to go through."
Until last month, Tyler had essentially been living at the Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company house since his father was killed. Both brothers are volunteer firemen with the company, as was their father.
Now, he's trying to be a grown-up, he said.
He's been doing a lot of work around the house, finishing the kitchen project his dad started.
"Dad was in the middle of taking the wallpaper off," Tyler said. "I feel like an old man. I go grocery shopping, because I forget I need to do that. I had to buy cleaning supplies, because I realized I didn't have any."
The brothers also say they have grown closer than ever.
"I feel like I need to be," Tyler said.
Their father served as a buffer between his sons, Bryan said.
"Now that he's not here, It's just deal with it, or come up with a resolution and try to make things positive. I know I never want to lose my brother," Bryan said. "When something happens in an instant like that, you never know when it's going to happen."
Bryan Dailey was at the firehouse when his father was shot on Feb. 10, 2016. He was scrolling through an app on his phone that provides information about fire calls and saw that a sheriff's office deputy was shot, an officer was down and aviation was requested, he recalled.
Bryan called his mom, Robyn Harrington, who had just gotten off work – she's a dispatcher at the Harford County 911 Center.
"She had no clue what was going on," he said.
Eventually, his stepfather called his mom, who called Bryan and broke the news.
"It was a shock," he said. The last year, "it's been rough, kind of. I'm just ready for everything to be over and be able to get on with everything."
For Tyler, his dad's death made it clear to him what he wants to do with his life.
"Obviously, when it happened, it was a shock. I never expected it to happen to my dad. He was getting ready to retire – he may have been retired by now," he said. "It hit as a shock. As time went on, things started to really hit me.
I know what I want to do now. I want to be like my dad."
Being like his dad means joining the military – Tyler has applied to the Coast Guard, his father was a Marine – and then to become a Harford County Sheriff's Office deputy.
Keeping that in mind is helping him cope.
"It's almost like an instinct. I feel like it's in my blood. I couldn't see doing anything else," Tyler said.
Bryan, too, wants to join the Sheriff's Office some day. Unlike Tyler, who wants to get in as soon as he can, Bryan wants to get back into the military.
He had been in the Navy, but said he was discharged after getting homesick during boot camp. He's hoping to join the Army or the National Guard and be a combat medic.
The idea of being a deputy scares both of Senior Deputy Dailey's sons a little bit, but both said it's the nature of the job.
"I want to be a cop, and I have to deal with that cops get shot, that's the way it is," Tyler said.
"Somebody has to do those jobs, someone's got to do it," Bryan said.
Same thing with being firefighters, they said.
Both boys grew up around the firehouse, where their father volunteered. Since they were in the cadet program, they knew what they were getting themselves into.
"We grew kind of immune to it, in a sense. But there are always are those certain calls that get to you," Bryan said.
Tyler remembers clearly something his dad told him after a particularly rough shift on the fire truck.
He was 16 years old and went out on back-to-back fatal accident crashes within an hour of each other.
"The first one tore me up. The second tore me up even worse. I was 16 years old, seeing two victims of fatal car accidents," Tyler said.
He told his dad about his day.
"He looked at me and said 'If it's not for you, it's not for you,'" Tyler said. "But this is what I want to do."
'My best friend'
Both Dailey brothers were close with their father and did a lot with him, but mostly hiking and military re-enactments.
Senior Deputy Dailey was a military history buff, they said, and together they would re-enact battles from the Civil War, the Revolutionary War and World War II.
In WWII reenactments, they were always on the Russian side, Tyler said, because the equipment was cheaper. They wouldn't be on the American side, because America always won.
Every March, the three would attend a Russian front re-enactment. Tyler went last year, Bryan didn't.
Tyler and his dad often had dinner together on Wednesday nights, especially when Senior Deputy Dailey had been working day shift. They spent a lot of time hiking together at the many parks in Harford County and also took frequent trips to Gettysburg.
"I find myself doing a lot of those things by myself. I really wish my dad was still around," he said. "I didn't realize it until after everything happened that my dad was definitely my best friend, by far. When I was little, I always wanted to be like him. I still do."
Bryan and his dad spent a lot of time fishing in Mariner Point Park near their Joppa home or riding bikes.
He also remembered a time when he was there to take care of his dad.
The three Daileys used to play a game they called pterodactyl, where they'd run at Senior Deputy Dailey, who would pick them up and throw them over his shoulders onto a pile of pillows.
In one particular game, when Bryan was about 5, he remember Tyler broke his dad's nose.
"I ran into the kitchen, grabbed a Ziplock bag and put ice in it," Bryan said. "He took me to Gettysburg as a thank you that I was his little paramedic."
Senior Deputy Dailey was definitely strict, but also easygoing, Bryan said.
"That was the Marine coming out of him, the cop coming out of him," Tyler added.
As they got older, their dad started to "loosen up," they said.
Tyler would test him, he said, asking his father "what if" he did something in a particular scenario.
"He said 'it's your life, do what you want,'" Tyler said. "He steered us in the right direction when we were younger, but he let us do what we want to do with our lives."
"He'd never turn his back on us," Bryan said.
That's not to say they didn't have their share of arguments – they did.
If Bryan could say one thing to his dad, it would be to take back all those arguments.
"I was 18. I thought I could do what I want. Now I'm like, 'Wow, I really shouldn't have been that way,'" Bryan said. "I really should have stuck by my dad and done more things with him. Now that he's gone, I think about things he would like and I want to give him a call. Oh wait, I can't."
Tyler's words to his father: "I'm going to make you proud."
Bryan and Tyler both say they have both "been laying low" during the last year.
They have sought comfort from their fire department family at Joppa-Magnolia and in running calls on the trucks.
"Tyler and I honor our father by getting back on the fire truck and doing what we do best," Bryan said.
When that bell goes off, he said, it takes your mind off everything else.
In losing their father, both young men have gained support from a number of people in their lives.
For Bryan, it's his adopted godparents, Kate Shealey and Robert Russell.
"They've pretty much been there for me from the get-go," he said.
Bryan's known Russell since they were cadets together, and Shealey since 2013.
"We've always had a good bond. I feel like no matter what, they'll always be there. It's helpful to have that support," he said.
Tyler has turned to his ex-girlfriend's father, Tom Bowler.
"He gave me a father figure to look toward," he said.
Bowler also took Tyler to church, "and I'm not a church-going kind of person," he said.
"I was in a bad spot, and he encouraged me to go to church. So we'd go together, I'd talk to him and we'd get dinner afterward or a milkshake."
Another source of support is their stepfather, Harrington, who they said is more like a "big brother, a really big brother" to them.
"He's definitely been there for us. Our whole lives, actually," Tyler said.