A Rio Arriba County deputy has had to do what every parent fears most: bury his own child, but he is hopeful that his heartbreaking struggle will help other families affected by drug addiction.
Capt. Billy Merrifield spoke with KOAT of how drug addiction doesn't discriminate. Despite having a deputy as a father, Brandi Merrifield died due to an overdose at just 22 years old on Aug. 7, 2016. Brandi was Capt. Merrifield's only child.
"None of us will ever know what she would have done or what her career was going to be," Merrifield said. Brandi, according to the outlet, loved cosmetology and writing poetry.
Merrifield, like so many family members of addicts, tried to help his daughter. He offered to buy her gas for her car or food — but would not give her money to fuel her addiction. He desperately attempted to get Brandi into drug abuse programs. As a peace officer, his duty to his daughter went beyond fatherhood.
"I, myself, as a father, put handcuffs on her and kept her in jail for about four months. I honestly knew in my heart if I didn't do this, who's to say it wouldn't have happened sooner?"
One day, Merrifield's phone rang, and he knew the terrible news that was waiting for him. As he was getting ready for duty himself, the state police called with the news his daughter had overdosed.
"We're not supposed to bury our children, they're supposed to bury us," Merrifield said.
The tragedy, Merrifield said, has helped him help others. "I'm able to relate to some of the family and to talk to them. It's hard for people to understand you or even want to listen to you, especially if you're wearing a uniform."
Merrifield is hopeful that his story can help save someone else, especially those in his community of New Mexico. According to a recent study by WalletHub, New Mexico was ranked sixth in states with the biggest drug problem in 2018. The state also ranked No. 3 for the highest percentage of teenage drug users and 14 for the highest percentage of adult drug users.
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