DENVER (AP) — A suburban Denver police officer who was fatally shot last week by a man investigators say was intent on killing as many officers as possible was remembered Tuesday as someone with “fundamental goodness” who knew how to love others, whether it was his wife and two teenage sons or a student overlooked at school.
Speaking at a memorial service, Arvada Police Chief Link Strate said he believed Officer Gordon Beesley, 51, hated writing traffic tickets during the time he served as motorcycle officer but found his true calling when he was assigned to work with students as a school resource officer. In that role, he was able to identify those who needed his help the most.
For example, Beesley used to go to work early two days a week to bike to school with a student with a developmental delay whose mother did not want him riding alone, Strate said.
“He had a fundamental goodness to him that’s all too rare. His goodness stood out from the rest so significantly that you would stop and ask, ‘Why aren’t more people like Gordon?'” Strate said.
Sgt. Brian Thome said that even though he did not seem to have anything in common with Beesley, a tie-dye-wearing vegetarian with an English degree who rode his bicycle to work, the two connected after Thome was intrigued by Beesley’s tattoo of what he thought was a wolf. It turned out to be the rambunctious Great Pyrenees-Labrador mix named Buster that he adopted after two other families struggled to care for him.
No one discussed the ambush of Beesley on June 21 during the private service at Flatirons Community Church in the city of Lafayette, which was streamed online. Beesley, back on patrol after the end of the school year, was shot while responding to a report of a suspicious person in Arvada’s historic downtown, about 7 miles (10 kilometers) northwest of downtown Denver.
Ronald Troyke ran after Beesley, yelling at him, and shot him when he turned around, police said. Johnny Hurley, who had been shopping in a store nearby, came out and fatally shot Troyke with his handgun. Hurley, whom police have described as a hero, was shot and killed by a responding officer who saw him holding Troyke’s AR-15. An investigation into that shooting is underway.
Police have released excerpts from a document written by Troyke that said he planned to kill as many Arvada police officers as he could, seeing his actions as a way to hold police accountable.
Focusing on the tragedy, Thome said, would be a disservice to Beesley. Family and friends recalled his love of music, having fun and being silly, going on outdoor adventures with his family and buying and fixing up bicycles to give to children.
Lead pastor Jim Burgen, recalling what he learned about Beesley from talking to his family, urged people to follow his example.
“Go home and love your family better. Love your wife. Dance in the living room. Listen to your kids with understanding this time. Bring fresh flowers home. Play music. Drink wine. Laugh more. Buy a kid a bike. Find the balance between order and mercy,” Burgen said.