Deputy killed in Colorado ambush lived in Union County

UNION COUNTY, N.C. — Slain Deputy Zackari Parrish, of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office in Colorado, had ties to Union County.

Investigators said Matthew Riehl opened fire in an ambush on Parrish and other deputies early Sunday morning in a Denver suburb.

Parrish attended Weddington Middle School and Metrolina Christian Academy.

“Zack Parrish was an incredible student during his time at Metrolina Christian Academy," the Rev. Rick Calloway, who is the head of the academy, said. "His passion for the Lord and for others was always evident. We at Metrolina Christian Academy extend our deepest sympathies and prayers to the Parrish family during this difficult time.”

Parrish was also a player for the Union Sabers, a travel team that won a national championship in Cooperstown, New York.

"He was just a fantastic kid," former coach Brian Stickley said.

As soon as Stickley met Parrish, he knew he was special.

[Colorado authorities were warned about gunman's mental state]

Stickley coached Parrish on the Union Sabers and his son was Parrish's best friend.

"When you're a parent, you want your kids to grow up with good people," Stickley said. "We were very pleased Zack Parrish was in our son's life."

(Zack Parrish)

As talented as Parrish was at baseball, he was even stronger in faith and had a passion for serving others.

"He loved his Lord and savior Jesus Christ. It was first and foremost in his life. He walked that walk, he didn't just talk it," he said.

Family members and friends are turning to their faith, struggling to cope with the killing of the deputy and father of two.

Even though he hadn't lived in the area for years, Parrish's smile, personality, kindness and manners left an impression on Metrolina Christian Academy, this small Union County school, and on his former coach.

"We got to start caring about one another," Stickley said. "We lost a great ambassador of that in Zack Parrish."

Read more top trending stories on wsoctv.com: