After a drunken-driving crash killed 18-year-old Michael Finley a month before his high school graduation, friends and fellow students swarmed the school parking lot by the dozen.
They wanted answers, and they wanted to show their support.
"I will never forget the feeling of complete devastation and overwhelming love at the same time," said Finley's mother, Michelle Peters, recalling the scene outside Falcon High School in the wake of her son's death last April. Days later, roughly 1,000 people showed up at the Falcon Culver's restaurant where Finley worked to participate in a fundraiser.
The community stepped up again Tuesday - this time filling a courtroom to capacity as the man responsible for Finley's death, Michael Fay, was sentenced to 24 years in prison, the maximum he faced under a plea agreement.
"I am so, so sorry for taking a wonderful young man from you," Fay told the family. "Just know that I will carry this for the rest of my life - the remorse, the regret, the survivor's guilt."
During the wrenching hearing, loved ones recalled Finley as kind and dependable - a member of student council who played football, ran track and talked of pursuing a career in law enforcement.
"My son lived a better life than I have - he was an amazing person," said his father, Roger Finley, who lives in Ohio.
The crash happened at East Woodmen and Golden Sage roads in El Paso County. Peters recalled seeing emergency lights on the horizon from the family's county home with the sinking feeling her son was in trouble.
Fay, who was driving east on Woodmen Road in a sport utility vehicle, turned left into the path of a car driven by Finley, who was westbound on Woodmen. Finley died at the scene, authorities said. Both men had on seat belts.
Fay, 53, admitted he was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash as part of his plea agreement.
Prosecutors say he has a prior conviction for driving under the influence dating to 1992. Relatives described him as a longtime alcoholic who got sober, then fell back into old habits, after a string of recent tragedies including a son's death by suicide and his wife's death from cancer.
Fourth Judicial District Judge Thomas Kelly Kane said he wasn't persuaded by pleas for mercy on Fay's behalf, saying the man had many opportunities through the years to better himself but didn't. The maximum sentence was meant to keep Fay behind bars, where he couldn't drive while drunk again, and to impose punishment for killing a "wonderful young man," the judge said.
Family members had asked for the harshest penalty available, and after it was imposed, they asked the community to reflect on the dangers of drunken driving, urging people to call a cab or take an Uber rather than imperil anyone else.
"We want people to learn from this error, from the poor decision that was made," said Finley's stepfather, Mason Peters.
Fay was given 180 days credit for time served.
Editor's note: Details of how the deadly crash occurred has been corrected. A correction has also been made in the last paragraph, where the defendant's name was misstated.