Former Escondido, San Diego police officer dies of brain cancer

An Escondido police officer, former Marine and father of three young daughters whose battle with brain cancer drew national attention last year was laid to rest Tuesday.

Brett Byler, 32

(Courtesy of Escondido Police Department)

Brett Byler, 32, died Nov. 14 following a 21-month fight with glioblastoma. A police motorcade ushered him to a Tuesday morning memorial at North Coast Church in Vista.

Byler is survived by his wife, Mariah, and their daughters Brynlee, Barrett and Bellamy.

“Brett was an outstanding police officer,” Escondido police Chief Ed Varso said in a statement. “Brett will always be remembered for his love of police work and his phenomenal sense of humor.”

Doctors found the 5.5 centimeter tumor on Byler’s brain in February 2020. Though they were able to remove much of the tumor during a surgery four days later, and though Byler underwent chemotherapy, the cancer returned in October.

“As is the nature of Brett’s type of tumor, the growth of it has returned,” his sister-in-law wrote Oct. 26 on an update to a GoFundMe campaign that has raised more than $144,000 for Byler’s wife and daughters. “This is news that we were told to expect from the beginning, but news we would never have been ready to hear … There is little that can be done from this point forward. There have been a lot of tears, a lot of very hard conversations, and a lot of trying to cherish what we’ve been given with Brett.”

After serving in the Marine Corps, Byler became a police officer with the U.S. Department of Defense, according to an Escondido police news release. He joined the San Diego Police Department after graduating from the police academy in October 2012, and in January 2016 he moved to the Escondido Police Department, where his brother was already an officer.

According to his sister-in-law’s updates, Brett Byler surprised Brandon Byler with a promotion in October.

“EPD was so incredibly thoughtful to coordinate having Brett surprise Brandon with the promotion and sergeant’s badge,” Brooke Byler wrote. “We will cherish that moment forever.”

The Today Show featured Byler’s story in April 2020, near the start of the pandemic and just two months out from his surgery, when more than 140 friends and family members participated in a drive-by parade to celebrate his 31st birthday.

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