GRAND JUNCTION (AP) – In one large photograph, a slain sheriff’s deputy wore his uniform. A picture across the altar at Monday’s funeral in western Colorado showed Derek Geer in casual clothes with his wife, 13-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter.
They were images of a man committed to his family, job and community. Geer was shot earlier this month while trying to detain a suspect. He was kept on life support so that his organs could be donated and died two days after the Feb. 8 shooting.
So many people wanted to attend Geer’s funeral that his Mesa County Sheriff’s Office arranged for a live stream at five other churches and a university theater. Afterward, a long line of police cars and emergency vehicles from departments across the state accompanied the hearse to a cemetery on the outskirts of Grand Junction, a town of 60,000 some 240 miles west of Denver where Geer grew up.
Knots of people stood along the 6-mile route during a procession that took more than an hour, waving American flags or holding their hands over their hearts.
PHOTO GALLERY: Remembering Fallen Deputy Derek Geer
In a letter read during the service in Canyon View Vineyard Church, Kate Geer said her husband would stay awake for a few hours after overnight shifts so he could drive his daughter to school. He had tried to learn Chinese after adopting the girl from China.
Kate Geer said her husband used to joke that his job was to be a sheep dog in a world of sheep and wolves. She said sheep dogs were loyal, loving, protective, playful “and a bit goofy. That’s Derek.”
Sheriff Matt Lewis said he had been unable to think of his deputy in recent days without “hearing his goofy laugh.”
“Derek was a hero for this community,” Lewis said.
In an order calling for flags on all public buildings statewide lowered to half-staff Monday, Gov. John Hickenlooper noted that Geer had received a sheriff’s department medal in 2012 for reviving a heart attack victim.
Geer was shot after responding to a report that a suspicious person carrying a gun and wearing a bandanna over his face had been spotted near two Grand Junction schools. Lewis told reporters that Geer approached the armed 17-year-old male. When the deputy told the teen he would be detained, the suspect tried to flee, Lewis said last week.
Geer then fired his Taser, and the suspect ‘fired multiple times at the deputy,” Lewis said.
The suspect, described by prosecutors as a teen drifter who used drugs and stole guns, was caught about an hour after the shooting. He is being held without bond.
Geer, a Navy veteran, had been a sheriff’s deputy in Mesa County since 2001.
During Monday’s service, Canyon View Vineyard Senior Pastor Kirk Yamaguchi addressed the large law enforcement contingent.
“Did you know you are talked about in the Bible?” Yamaguchi said. “We thank God for servants of justice in our community.”
Law enforcement officers from across the country attended the service in uniforms. Some mourners, including Geer’s wife and children, wore blue T-shirts emblazoned with sheriff’s stars and his name.
Meanwhile, prosecutors plan to charge the suspect in Geer’s death as an adult. A court hearing is set for Tuesday.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark Hand said during an initial court hearing that the Grand Junction teen had violated the terms of his probation in a Jefferson County sex assault case and a warrant had been issued for his arrest. Prosecutors said that the teen acknowledged using methamphetamines and breaking into cars to steal weapons. The serial number had been defaced on the handgun used to shoot Geer, prosecutors said.
– By DONNA BRYSON, AP Writer
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