COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4/AP) — A campus police officer killed in the Planned Parenthood shooting was honored Friday for volunteering to rush to the clinic as shots rang out, an act those who knew him say was driven by his sense of purpose and faith.
Gov. John Hickenlooper told hundreds of people packed into the service at New Life Church, including Garrett Swasey’s wife and two young children, that Swasey followed his beliefs and his calling in the shooting a week before.
“He was brave and strong and courageous and in sacrificing his life for others he has forever altered the lives of everyone here,” Hickenlooper said.
Swasey, 44, was one of three people killed after authorities say Robert Dear opened fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic on Nov. 27. Four other civilians and five other officers were wounded.
Swasey’s wife, Rachel, spoke to a standing room only crowd gathered to remember and honor him.
“The love of my life gave his life without regret to make sure others will live,” said Rachel. “I have been more overwhelmed this week by lover than by sadness.”
Larry Darnell, a fellow University of Colorado Colorado Springs police officer who spoke at the funeral, said the wounded included a sheriff’s deputy who was shot after going to check on Swasey. He said Swasey was not asked to go to the clinic but wanted to go after hearing on the police scanner than another officer had been shot.
“I get to speak on behalf of entire population of Colorado and I can say we are humbled by his sacrifice and will be eternally grateful for his service and will make sure we never forget him,” said Hickenlooper.
Swasey was also a co-pastor at Hope Chapel, an evangelical church in Colorado Springs. A former champion ice dancer, he grew up training with future figure skating champion Nancy Kerrigan in his hometown of Melrose, Massachusetts.
He moved to Colorado Springs to train at the Olympic Training Center in the 1990s before becoming a police officer six years ago.
“To perform at top of the sport in pairs competition you’ve got to not only have the courage and the skill but you’ve got to be unfailingly reliable somebody who can be trusted because somebody is counting on you to catch them when they take a leap. Officer Garrett Swasey was all those things and he was nothing if not reliable,” said Hickenlooper. “I’ve never met someone with that capacity as figure skater or any sport who then went into a career in law enforcement and brought those same attributes to that career.”
Swasey’s wife, Rachel, echoing several other speakers, said her husband’s Christian faith was the focus of his life, including the way he approached his job. Speaking calmly, she said her husband’s message to the world was “Put your faith in the Lord.”
“The love of my life gave his life without regret,” she said. “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you… what more could there be to say blessed be the name of the Lord.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Officer Garrett Swasey Funeral
“This was not a call he was required to respond to but he did so because he could and he believed he should, lives were at stake, it was a time for dedication and duty and it was a time to confront evil and Garrett Swasey died doing just that,” said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers.
Rachel said her husband left the world two words that are his legacy, “The first word he gave is Elijah. our first born son is Elijah and his name means the Lord is God. And the second word my husband left is faith. Our only daughter is named Faith. Faith means an assurance of things unseen. These two words – Faith and Elijah – they point to all my husband had to say to this world – put your faith in the Lord. Garret was prepared to do good things because he put his faith in the Lord.”
The University of Colorado has established an endowed scholarship in Swasey’s name as an ongoing legacy. The Colorado Springs chancellor says they already have more than 500 contributions.
Also killed in the attack were two people who were accompanying friends to the clinic — Ke’Arre Stewart, 29, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and a father of two, and Jennifer Markovsky, 36, a mother of two who grew up in Hawaii in the tight-knit community of Waianae on Oahu.
A funeral for Markovsky is planned Saturday in Colorado Springs.
Stewart will be buried in his hometown of Waco, Texas. The Gazette of Colorado Springs reports that friends and family as well as strangers, including police officers, district attorney Dan May and a woman who said she was a Planned Parenthood patient, paid their respects to Stewart during a visitation there on Thursday night.
The flags were lowered after the Colorado Springs shooting and were still lowered when Hickenlooper announced Thursday they would remain lowered for the victims of the shootings in San Bernadino, Calif.
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