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Mother, Daughter Of Fallen Denver Officer Turn Tragedy Into Triumph

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Celena Hollis (credit: CBS)

Celena Hollis (credit: CBS)

gloria neal Mother, Daughter Of Fallen Denver Officer Turn Tragedy Into Triumph

DENVER (CBS4) – Denver police officer Celena Hollis died almost a year ago after being shot at a music concert in City Park. Her family is now opening up about their loved one for the first time and explaining how they are honoring her memory.

“It has to be one of the worst days of my life. Of our lives,” said Dorothy Hollis, referring to the night her 32-year-old daughter was killed. Investigators say Hollis was rushing to break up a fight on June 24 at a City Park Jazz concert when she was struck by a stray bullet in the head.

“I think losing a child is one of the worst things that could ever happen, but what keeps me going is Celena smiled all the time and anytime I’m feeling sad I’ll start looking through her pictures,” Dorothy said.

Dorothy smiles through the pain so as not to upset her granddaughter Amyre, but the tears are still close to the surface for the 13 year old who lost her mom. Celena was a single mother.

“How do you feel about grandmomma now being momma?” CBS4’s Gloria Neal asked Amyre.

“I wish my mom was here but grandmom has always been there,” Amyre said. “Whenever my mom needed help with me, she’s always been there.”

And how does Dororthy feel when she hears those words?

“It makes me feel good, but that’s how it is when you have a perfect grandchild,” she said.

Celena was the first female officer in the history of the Denver Police Department who was killed in the line of duty. She had been with the force since 2005.

“Dorothy, did you know you were this strong?” Neal asked Dorothy.

“Well, I’m a black woman. We were built that way,” she said.

Dorothy’s strength in heritage as well as her faith in God is what she credits. And how has the loss of her mom affected Amyre?

“I’m maturing and I’m kind of distant now from her. I want to be distant. As it goes on I push some people away; push some of them out of my life,” Amyre said. “I don’t know, it just happens.”

Amyre and Dorothy share a laugh with CBS4's Gloria Neal. (credit: CBS)

Amyre and Dorothy share a laugh with CBS4’s Gloria Neal. (credit: CBS)

But the death of a dedicated officer and mother was not the end of this family. In many ways it was a new beginning. The Celena Hollis Foundation the family has formed is all about giving back.

Amyre says she can still hear her mom telling her what to do.

“She was just like ‘I want you to be independent and she don’t want me around any boys really,’ ” Amre said with a laugh. “And she wanted me to be around good people that do good things.”

“The short time she was here she touched so many lives, and not many people can say that,” Dorothy said.

While she had nothing but praise for the police department and the Denver district attorney’s office for keeping her updated with the case, she said she has “nothing to say” to the man who killed Celena. Rollin Oliver pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last month and faces at least 16 years in prison when he is sentenced at a hearing scheduled for June 21.

Dorothy says the Celena Hollis Foundation is working on gathering volunteers as well as collecting donations. They describe their mission in the following words: “To improve the quality of life through a balance between partnerships with public and private organizations. It does this by building community awareness, advocating for homeless issues, maximizing service effectiveness and linking people with information.”

LINK: Celena Hollis Foundation

RELATED: Friend Says Community Has Stepped Up Since Shooting Death Of Officer

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