UCCS honors and remembers officer Garrett Swasey

November 28, 2016 Updated: November 29, 2016 at 7:36 pm
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One year ago, UCCS Officer Garrett Swasey was gunned down during a shooting at Planned Parenthood. The news of his death was first announced at UCCS during a home basketball game. UCCS Interim Police Chief Marc Pino and other first responders, students, and UCCS faculty gathered for a candlelight vigil before a home game to honor the memory of Officer Swasey. Swasey was shot on November 27 of last year. In the foreground, UCCS Interim Police Chief Marc Pino (right) as well participated in the vigil. photo by Jerilee Bennett,The Gazette

For University of Colorado at Colorado Springs senior Ashley Demosthenes, fallen officer Garrett Swasey remains an example for her and others studying criminal justice.

"He died helping others because he was selfless," she said, choking up a little bit. "That's what makes people who go into criminal justice different from others - their selflessness."

The UCCS police officer died while responding to the attack on the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic on Nov. 27, 2015.

On Monday, the UCCS community honored Swasey and the region's first responders with a candlelight vigil and ceremony before a men's basketball game between UCCS and Colorado College.

UCCS faculty, staff and students stood alongside members of the UCCS Police Department, Colorado Springs Police Department, Colorado Springs Fire Department, El Paso County Sheriff's Office, Colorado State Patrol and ambulance personnel for a moment of silence before the game.

"They are part of the reason why we are able to play a basketball game tonight," UCCS chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak said. "Tonight is about courage, commitment and celebration."

The NCAA Division II Mountain Lions (1-4) prevailed 74-63 over the Division III Tigers (1-5), but that was secondary to the evening's meaning for most of the 972 fans in the Gallogly Events Center.

"It's important to for the students to be here," said Demosthenes, the UCCS chapter president of Alpha Phi Sigma, the national honors society for her major. "I was interning with the CSPD when it all happened. I didn't know Garrett personally, but knowing you could lose someone you really care about, well it really hit home."

A year ago, students organized a spontaneous candlelight vigil at the location of this year's event. So many student groups wanted to be involved this year that organizing the event was difficult, said Demosthenes, who opened the vigil.

"But that also shows how much that shook up our community," she said. "It shows how much students appreciate what he did for the community."

That sentiment is felt by Swasey's former colleagues.

"These events have helped in the grieving process as we move forward," interim police chief Marc Pino said. "We continue to heal with the help of Garrett's family and the UCCS community. We think about Garrett on a daily basis. His sacrifice will never be forgotten by the UCCS community, this department or its members."

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