Before U.S. Marines fired honorary volleys, before the words that memorialized a life were said to packed church pews, and before the American flag-draped coffin led a lengthy procession through Prince William County, cops stood in the parking lot and swapped stories.
From all accounts, it didn’t take Prince William Officer Chris Yung, 35, long to make a lasting impression. As the hundreds of police and military — Yung is a former Marine — from all over the D.C., region waited to file into Hylton Memorial Chapel in Woodbridge on Friday, they reflected on a man whose small acts and quick-spreading, oft-offered smile had left a widespread impact.
Yung, who lived in Warrenton, was killed responding to a traffic call about 2 p.m. on New Year’s Eve in Bristow. Police said Yung had his emergency lights and siren activated and a green light as he headed south on Nokesville Road at Piper Lane. A 2001 Dodge Caravan driven by a 69-year-old woman from Gainesville was turning left from Nokesville Road into a shopping center when she crossed in front of Yung’s motorcycle, according to police.
Yung’s death was Prince William’s third line-of-duty death since 1970. Police say the crash remains under investigation.
Barry Barnard, the department’s acting chief, said at the funeral that he remembers interviewing Yung for the job in 2005. He was put together and friendly, and during Yung’s seven years with the department he said he often heard the stories and saw the smile. Yung was known for exemplary professionalism and exuding “calm,” Barnard said.
That’s because Yung was a cop who understood that he wasn’t just there to catch the bad guy, but rather was often dealing with good people on their worst day.
Prince William 1st Sgt. David Burghart, a friend and fellow officer, said he remembered the “fresh meat” when Yung came in just out of the police academy and sat near the front during a department meeting.
While he’s remembered for his smile, he was first noticed for something else: his pointy ears. The Yoda jokes from the older hands soon started raining down.
“He laughed with that laugh,” Burghart said. “He loved our brotherhood.”
Yung had arrived where he wanted to be and he seemed to be enjoying every moment.
Prince William District Court Judge William E. Jarvis, who is also a former prosecutor in the county, said Yung’s smile was well-known around the courthouse. Yung understood that his job was “to do the right thing,” not simply seek punishment, Jarvis said.
“He’s the officer; if there’s a problem with the case, he’d tell you about it,” Jarvis said.
Barnard addressed Yung’s three young children, Christopher, Clayton and Paige: “You have so many reasons to be proud of your dad,” he said.
Dale Yung, also a Prince William police officer, one of his two brothers, said that Chris was always looking for the next challenge. First it was the Marines, then it was police work.
“He went 10-42 doing what he loved,” said Dale through tears, using the radio code for going out of service. But even that, he said, did not bring sense to his brother’s death: “Why him? Why this way?” he asked.
Friends and fellow officers said Yung’s life was full of “quiet little tales” of benevolence that otherwise might have gone untold. The help for the stranded motorist when he was off his shift. Helping stranded boaters – and then buying them beer afterward.
One way that Yung wanted to fit “25 hours into a 24-hour-day” was by spending time with his family. When officers returned his personal belongings to his wife, Robin, after the wreck, they found his calendar, which he always kept in his jacket.
Robin, a former officer with the county, had written near an upcoming date, “I can’t wait to spend a few hours together. I’ll always be with you because you stole my heart so long ago.”
Chris Yung leaves behind his wife and three children; parents Jennifer and Edward Yung; his brothers Brian and wife Jamie, and Dale Yung and his wife, Nancy; two nephews, Anthony and Patrick; and his niece Kaitlyn, according to his obituary.
Chris Yung is expected to be buried Saturday in Charlottesville.