In a scene that seemed eerily familiar enough to produce goosebumps, Arvada police posted an "end of watch" dated June 21, 2021, on its Twitter account Tuesday for one of their own, and hundreds of people walked, rode bicycles and drove to a growing memorial for Arvada police officer Gordon Beesley to leave a keepsake, say a prayer and hug each other.
Beesley, a school resource officer at Oberon Middle School who had reverted to patrol duty for the summer, lost his life Monday while responding to reports of a man behaving suspiciously in Arvada’s downtown core, known as Olde Town.
Beesley “was targeted because he was wearing an Arvada police uniform and a badge,” Arvada police Chief Link Strate said Tuesday at a news conference. "Officer Beasley was ambushed by someone who expressed hatred of police officers,” he said.
The Jefferson County Coroner's Office identified the shooter as 59-year-old Ronald Troyke of Arvada. Public records show he had worked as a truck driver.
The police chief called the attack a “deliberate act of violence” and an ”isolated incident,” but did not provide details about the shooter, whom authorities killed in Monday's shootout.
A bystander, John Hurley, who reportedly was trying to intervene, also was shot and killed, authorities said. Without giving details, Strate called Hurley "a true hero" who saved lives.
The police chief’s statements corroborate what eyewitness Jeremy Wiest of Loveland said happened, in an interview with The Gazette.
He was in Arvada with his dad to shop in Old Towne Square Monday afternoon when they heard gunshots.
“Kaboom, kaboom, kaboom,” Wiest said. “That’s when I saw the police officer on the ground and the suspect walking around.”
Wearing a tactical-type vest and dressed in black, Troyke moved slowly and methodically, Wiest said, and the incident “seemed premeditated and planned out.”
“He wasn’t rushing, just moving pretty deliberately.”
Wiest said at one point, the shooter looked in his direction.
“I have a clear picture of his rifle,” he said. “He knew how to handle it — I could tell by his stance and how he was holding the weapon. He was very aware. He looked very comfortable with the rifle, index finger straight out.”
Beesley did not appear to have any body armor on, Wiest said, and Arvada police do not wear body cameras, so there is no police video footage of the shooting. Law enforcement from other jurisdictions who arrived on scene after the melee did have on body cameras.
Wiest said it was fortunate the afternoon was slow for business, and there weren’t many people out on the streets.
Neighbor Maicayla Sawaya says Troyke didn't come out of his apartment much. She didn't even know that anyone lived behind door 36.
Meanwhile, workers were replacing damage SWAT teams did to Troyke's apartment. Everyone in the apartment complex was evacuated by SWAT teams with huge shields Monday night, Sawaya said.
Police released vehicles that were parked in the area back to their owners Tuesday afternoon.
The Arvada shooting happened almost three months to the day of when a gunman opened fire in a Boulder King Soopers and killed 10 employees, shoppers and Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley.
Beesley lived in Boulder with his wife and two children. When Talley was shot and killed on March 22, Beesley had posted on his Facebook page that he and his family were safe, on vacation because it was spring break.
In front of Arvada City Hall, where the police department is headquartered, Beesley’s police car and bicycle were draped Tuesday in wreaths, bunches of flowers, candles, balloons, messages and an American flag. The items covered the fallen officer’s modes of work transportation to the point that they were no longer visible.
“It’s such a sad thing, we’ve become immune to it,” said Ken Dudley, who lives in Arvada, located about 11 miles northwest of downtown Denver and home to 123,000 residents, according to U.S. Census data.
For whatever reason, Colorado has had many shootings, Dudley said, mentioning this year’s rampage in Boulder and previous events in other cities, such as Aurora.
“It’s just too close to home,” he said.
Throughout the day, people of all ages arrived at the memorial to pay their respects.
A group of kids from Oberon Middle School, which is about 2 miles away from where Beesley was shot, laid down flowers in the hot mid-afternoon sun.
“He was like a friend,” said eighth grader Marissa Lazaroff. “He used to greet all of us and used to make jokes in the hallway.”
Students who were having a “rough time” could go into Beesley’s office and talk to him, and he would help, she said.
“We’ve never had an officer like that,” said seventh grader Addison Palumbo. “It’ll never be the same at Oberon.”
Beesley assisted during active-shooter drills the school conducted, students remembered.
He had talked with Tara Pena, former principal at the middle school, about what they would do if a shooter came to their campus.
"He said, 'Don't worry, I'll be the one to chase the bad guy,'" Pena recalled.
Students said their parents made them stay inside Monday afternoon, as word of the tragedy spread in the community.
“We were going to come down to Olde Town for ice cream yesterday, but we decided at the last minute not to,” said Oberon student Brooklyn DeLeon. “That could have been us.”
School counselor David Ruppert and Melinda Perry, a school social worker, brought poster board for people to write messages.
“They can express their thoughts and feelings and get that out,” Ruppert said.
Some Oberon staff and parents arrived at the memorial as a group. The school community is like a family, Ruppert said.
“We needed to be together as a family,” he said. "We're trying to absorb what happened — it’s unbelievable.
"He was without a doubt the best man I’ve ever known."
Beesley was “just a presence at Oberon,” said Perry, crying. “He was the best. It’s going to be hard.”
Jefferson County School District R-1 is providing counselors for students and staff.
Counseling for anyone affected by the tragedy is a top priority, said Arvada Mayor Marc Williams.
“A number of people in Olde Town — whether they were visitors, residents or employees working there — either saw the shooting or were involved in the aftermath,” he told The Gazette.
The city is working with the Jefferson Center for Mental Heath in Arvada to “address those immediate issues,” he said.
“We need to make sure people feel safe in Olde Town,” Williams said. “It’s one of the safest cities in the nation. What happened here yesterday was an aberration."
Olde Town Arvada, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, had experienced a resurgence of pedestrian traffic and activity in recent years since the openings of the Denver Beer Co., Stueben's, Homegrown Tap and Dough and many retailers.
The COVID-19 pandemic halted progress.
The Olde Town Arvada Business Improvement District lobbied the city to close some streets downtown to allow for more patio seating for restaurants and allowed open-carry of alcohol in some areas.
The council recently voted to extend closures of Grandview Avenue and Olde Wadsworth Boulevard for five years while officials study the issue.
Mayor Williams was a councilmember in 2007 when a shooter stormed the Faith Bible Chapel campus at 64th Street and Ward Road, killing two missionaries from Youth with a Mission and wounding two others.
“These tragedies happen and they’re random and unpredictable,” he said. “You just make the community as safe as you can. You can’t put all of us in a bubble, and you can’t put everyone in bulletproof suits. … These things shake your spirit, but you have to rebound."
Perry, the social worker, said she hopes people remember Bessely's sacrifice.
“He was the epitome of what a police officer should be," she said. "Gordon was giving and loving.”
Gazette video editor Katie Klann contributed to this article.