By Kelly Werthmann
DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock answered many questions from the press Tuesday, most surrounding what happened New Year’s Eve when Deputy Zackari Parrish was killed in an ambush.
But CBS4 also wondered how the sheriff and his team are doing mentally following the tragedy.
“Thanks for asking,” Sheriff Spurlock said.
Grieving the loss of Deputy Parrish has not been easy for the agency, but they are not coping alone.
“We have resources available through our peer support group that is really doing a great job in touching all the employees that had some impact in this investigation,” Spurlock explained.
The ambush at a Highlands Ranch apartment complex took a significant toll on the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office as well as the other responding agencies.
Spurlock said the mental wellness of his staff and their families is a concern.
“I do think that’s an issue, and we’re focusing on that very intently,” he said.
Boulder Sheriff Joe Pelle’s son, Jeff, was critically hurt in the shooting. Deputy Pelle is still in the hospital recovering from his physical injuries, and his emotional and mental well-being is fragile.
“He lost a friend and was exposed to a lot of trauma,” Sheriff Pelle said of his son on Jan.1, the day after the shooting. “Of course we’re worried about that as well.”
Spurlock said Pelle and the other officers who were with Parrish when he was killed may likely feel a sense of survivor’s guilt.
“There are a lot of officers that feel bad that they couldn’t get there. We had officers that tried to and got injured. I think that’s a normal, natural feeling,” Spurlock said. “We’ve had that discussion with them because it was a pretty horrific gun battle.”
The hope is, though, through peer support and other outside counseling, the heroes involved that deadly morning, as well as their families, will come out stronger.
“We are also taking special care of Zack Parrish’s wife, Gracie, and his two little girls,” Spurlock said. “We have resources available to them.”
Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team as the morning reporter in 2012. After serving as weekend morning anchor, Kelly is now Covering Colorado First for CBS4 News at 10. Connect with Kelly on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @KellyCBS4.