Retired Seattle Police Officers Association


By: Officer Mike Severance #2866


On August 13, 2006 at 4.09 AM, Officer Joselito “Lito” Barber, 26, was on routine patrol and driving north on 23rd Ave. S. As he drove through the intersection at E. Yesler Way with the green light, his patrol car was broadsided by an eastbound GMC Yukon travelling at 80 mph. Officer Barber was killed instantly. He was survived by his parents Ernie and Lorna, his stepmother, Emelita and his fiancée, Amber Noel-Du.

Officer Barber’s funeral was held on August 21, 2006. After a funeral Mass at St. James Cathedral, there was a public memorial service at the University of Washington Edmundson Pavilion. Hundreds of Seattle Police Officers were joined by colleagues from at least 75 law enforcement agencies and fire departments from British Columbia to California. Officer Barber’s final resting place is Washington Memorial Park in Sea-Tac.

The person who killed Officer Barber was Mary Jane Rivas, 31. She had been released from prison 10 days before the collision after serving less than half the standard sentence for cocaine possession. Her record included 20 misdemeanor and 7 felony convictions for drugs, illegal possession of a firearm, assault and prostitution. Rivas lied to investigating officers. She told them she was a passenger in the Yukon, and the driver had fled. Investigators determined Rivas had been the only occupant in the Yukon, and she was under the influence of cocaine at the time of the fatal collision. In November 2007, Rivas was convicted of vehicular homicide and cocaine possession. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison. As of 2017, Rivas was still incarcerated.

Joselito A. Barber was born in Seattle on June 26, 1980. He grew up right in the middle of SPD’s “Sam” sector. He attended St. Paul’s In Rainier Beach and O’Dea High School before enrolling at the University of Washington. Lito’s desire to become a police officer became more apparent while working at the SODO Home Depot as a loss prevention officer. He was commissioned as a Seattle Police Officer on January 31, 2006. Friends remember him as kind-hearted and “always smiling.” Fellow officers remember Officer Barber as caring, conscientious and enthusiastic. Officer Barber’s sudden and tragic loss was greatly felt in the community he served, and he is deeply missed by his large network of family, friends and co-workers.

In May 2006, Officer Joselito Barber was posthumously awarded the Washington Law Enforcement Medal of Honor. His family was present at the ceremony to receive his medal.