COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) – Faith led Garrett Swasey to a career in public service and pastoral care, and duty led him to a Planned Parenthood clinic where he was gunned down.
The 44-year-old was the first of three victims to be identified in the shooting Friday. A man and a woman also died, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said Sunday, without elaborating. A city official said the two would not be identified until after autopsies were performed Monday.
Married with two children, Swasey worked as a police officer at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. He was there when he was called to assist with an active shooter at the nearby clinic.
Swasey, who was also a co-pastor at Hope Chapel, an evangelical church in Colorado Springs, was remembered Sunday by parishioners who watched a video of him ice skating. Before he became a police officer, Swasey was a junior national couples ice dancing champion.
His widow, Rachel Swasey, released a statement Sunday that said her husband’s “last act was for the safety and well-being of others.” She said the family will cherish memories of him tossing the football with his son and snuggling with his daughter.
Garrett Swasey was originally from Melrose, Massachusetts, where Police Chief Michael Lyle said he dedicated much of his life to helping others.
At the University of Colorado, Swasey was known for going out of his way to help, including recently stopping to help someone in a serious car accident just off campus even though he was off duty and headed home, Lt. Marc Pino said.
Pino also recalled that Swasey was disappointed he wasn’t more involved with responding to a wildfire that destroyed over 340 homes and killed two people in 2012.
“Garrett was always that person who was wanting to be the first one there helping people out,” he said.
Swasey moved to Colorado in the 1980s to pursue competitive figure skating, his father told the Boston Globe. He became a police officer six years ago, around the time his daughter was born, 73-year-old David Swasey said.
“He was a great dad,” Swasey told the newspaper. “I mean, a super dad. Everybody in the police department loved him. Anybody who ever met him loved him. He was a great guy, a great person.”
As a skater, Garrett Swasey won a national championship in the junior ranks and competed in the U.S. Championships at least three times, his father said.
President Barack Obama praised Swasey in a statement released by the White House: “May God bless Officer Garrett Swasey and the Americans he tried to save – and may He grant the rest of us the courage to do the same thing.”
Little was known about the other two people who were killed or the nine who were wounded.
The regional head of Planned Parenthood said none of 15 employees at the clinic Friday were hurt. Vicki Cowart said the group had not discovered who the other victims were.
Colorado Springs Fire Department Chief Chris Riley visited four injured officers Friday night. All had been shot, but they were talking and expected to recover, he said.
“Their spirits are good,” Riley said after visiting them. “They’re obviously in pain. But they’re alive and talking to us. They’re heroes. Absolute heroes.”
– By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer
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