Officer Garrett Swasey was remembered at his funeral Friday as a brave man who did not ignore a call for help that was out of his jurisdiction. He showed up. And he lost his life.
On Friday, thousands of people from Colorado Springs, across the state and country thanked Swasey for that sacrifice by showing up themselves. Leaving their own cities and towns, people came en masse to honor the 44-year-old University of Colorado at Colorado Springs officer who was killed by a gunman outside Planned Parenthood on Nov. 27.
As Swasey's casket arrived at New Life Church in north Colorado Springs, a sea of officers clad in blue - about 100 yards long and at least 10 people deep - saluted him in silence. Inside the church, which seats about 5,000, at least 100 people stood in the back while hundreds more lined the streets surrounding the church. Hundreds of students cheered as the hearse drove by UCCS on the way to the cemetery, escorted by two hours' worth of law enforcement vehicles from all parts of the state.
"I have been more overwhelmed this week by love than by sadness," said Swasey's widow, Rachel Swasey, during the service.. "Your kindness is an amazing gift to me."
Swasey was eulogized Friday by relatives, co-workers, UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and Gov. John Hickenlooper. They remembered a faith-filled family man who adored his children, 10-year-old Elijah and 6-year-old Faith.
Some of Swasey's imperfections were what made them smile the most as they remembered him. Rachel Swasey joked that her eulogy wouldn't be close to as long as her husband's sermons. His nephew admitted how annoyed he got when Swasey always made them use Facetime to talk on their phones so Swasey wouldn't have to use his mobile minutes. His training officer jokingly plotted revenge after he was once pelted with grass flying out of a lawnmower and Swasey wouldn't stop laughing.
They also said he knew the dangers of his job and wasn't afraid to rush to the assistance of anyone who needed him. The day he died Swasey raced to Planned Parenthood after hearing a call that a Colorado Springs police officer was down.
"When a fellow officer needed him, when his community needed him, when God called him, he answered the call," Hickenlooper said.
"The love of my life gave his life without regret to be sure that others would live," Rachel Swasey said.
Mourners assured the Swasey family Friday that they would be taken care of.
"You are not alone," Brian McPike, UCCS police chief told the family. "You will always have a wonderful, devoted family of blue who will remember Garrett's ultimate sacrifice."
The Swaseys were also supported outside the church. Supporters lined up outside the church before the service on Friday and along the procession from the church past UCCS to Evergreen Cemetery.
UCCS students started lining Austin Bluffs around 1 p.m. for the six-year veteran of the campus police force who was remembered for his easy manner and style.
Brittany Lattimore was one of the few who got to the campus early to watch firefighters set up trucks and a ladder arch hung with the American and Colorado flag. Like many others, the former UCCS student wore blue and carried a blue poster to honor Swasey.
Lattimore had been at New Life Church, but the moment she heard protesters might picket the procession at UCCS, she rushed to the campus. She hoped a wall of supportive students would shield Swasey's family from unpleasantness.
"When the family comes, that's the last thing I want them to see," Lattimore said. Protesters never showed.
The students waited for hours to greet the procession, which arrived at dusk as the temperature dropped. In a rush, the students ran to eastbound lane of Austin Bluffs, where hundreds of them lined the procession of cars.
Just after the hearse passed, a woman in tears leaned out of a car window and mouthed a silent "thank you" to the line of people.
At Evergreen Cemetery, several people arrived early to show the family their support.
One person waved a "Thin Blue Line American Flag" to show his support for law enforcement.
One small cardboard sign had a simple message: "Thank you."
Megan Schrader contributed to this report.