COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – It was one year ago at a basketball game on campus that University of Colorado-Colorado Springs officials announced the death of Officer Garrett Swasey.
The campus police officer was killed on Nov. 27, 2015 while responding to an active shooter at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. For a community that continues to mourn his loss, organizers of a ceremony held in his honor on Monday say it was only fitting this year to celebrate Swasey’s life at a basketball game — the men’s team season home opener.
Before the game, members of six area law enforcement agencies filled the court as university leaders recognized Swasey’s sacrifice. Prior to the game, they gathered with students at El Pomar Plaza for a candlelight vigil and moment of silence.
UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak shared a message from Swasey’s wife, Rachel, who was not present for the ceremony.
“Be sure you celebrate Garrett tonight,” Shockley-Zalabak says Rachel Swasey told her. “Be sure you celebrate the UCCS Police Department, and be sure you celebrate first responders.”
When Swasey heard a call for mutual aid, he went to the scene of the shooting. Another man and a women were also killed. Five law enforcement officers were injured. Swasey is the first UCCS campus police officer to be killed on duty.
His selfless actions responding that day resonate with Ashley Demosthenes, a criminal justice student at UCCS, who helped plan Monday’s vigil.
“He didn’t have to go and help but he did just because he was a good officer and a good man and that’s really important,” Demosthenes said.
Interim campus police Chief Marc Pino says Swasey is remembered for his character.
“He was very strong, very opinionated, but also a very good officer and very dedicated to the community he served, both his church community, but also at UCCS,” Pino said.
Pino says Monday’s ceremony and vigil mark the last in a year of difficult “firsts” for not only those who knew Swasey well, but also the campus community as a whole.
“It gives the campus an opportunity to mourn with us and recognize that first anniversary with us,” Pino said.
At the basketball game, volunteers accepted donations for a scholarship fund to one day be given to students in Swasey’s name.