Deputy's sudden death shakes Seneca, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The unexpected death of a beloved school resource officer on Monday has shocked Seneca High School and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

Devin Meriwether, 43, was found unresponsive in his office at Seneca early Monday and was pronounced dead at Norton Women’s and Children’s Hospital, according to Lt. Col. Carl Yates, spokesman for the sheriff’s office.

Meriwether, a Marine Corps veteran and father of two sons, had been with a deputy sheriff in Jefferson County for about seven years and a resource officer at Seneca for much of that time.

Seneca Principal Kim Morales said news of Meriwether’s  death stunned staff and students at the school. Counselors were at Seneca on Monday to help students cope with the loss, and Morales said they will be at the school as long as necessary.

“Personally it’s a tough loss because I was an assistant principal when he was here as well and so we’ve been side-by-side for the last seven years, but my first thought was I knew how much he was loved and that I needed to take care of the staff and the kids,” Morales said.

“He meant a lot to the young people here, especially our young men,” she added.

Morales said Meriwether – “a big old teddy bear,” as she described him – never shied from tough topics like police shootings with students and worked hard to forge relationships with them. That was especially true for kids “that had a little more trouble than others,” she said.

Meriwether had a “heart-to-heart” talk with Seneca’s Men of Quality group about making good decisions in life on Friday and helped organize a viewing of “The Hate U Give,” a movie about high school girl who witnessed her friend being shot by police, for Seneca freshmen last month.

He invited law enforcement officers to speak with those students about authority, respect and controversial police shootings, Morales said.

“He was never afraid to take on tough issues and to build relationships with kids and to support the culture that we’re building here at Seneca,” she said.

Yates said Meriwether was "a very popular guy" in the sheriff's office and at Seneca.

"He was very well liked and very liked by the kids and just a very good SRO," Yates said.

Morales agreed, saying Meriwether was a friend and mentor for many. While Meriwether had a serious side and knew his role as a resource officer, he was often spotted joking with students, doling out high fives and greeting them as they arrived at school, she said.

In fact, some kids sought him out specifically when something went wrong in their lives, Morales said.

“He worked to build those relationships with them, and I think that gave him so much more authority than his badge,” she said.

The grief that Seneca students are experiencing with Meriwether’s loss isn’t surprising to her. On Monday, Morales saw young men and women coping with anger, sadness, shock and a bevy of other emotions in the wake of Meriwether’s sudden passing.

“Our kids are loving and they love hard, and when somebody endears themselves to them, that matters,” Morales said.

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and kwheatley@wdrb.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

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