Colorado State Patrol honors one of their fallen
On the night of Nov. 29, 1980, Trooper James Kevin Farris was doing his job. Farris had been serving with the Colorado State Patrol for a little over a year. His beat had him patrolling Interstate 70 through Colorado’s then-sleepy mountain towns, keeping the corridor safe for everyone driving across the Continental Divide. He had a wife, P.J., waiting for him at home.
From what little is known from that fateful night in November, Farris encountered a traffic violator tearing down eastbound I-70 through Vail Pass. Farris was in hot pursuit, but at some point lost control of his cruiser and rolled over into an embankment near Exit 203 leading into Frisco and Breckenridge along Highway 9. Farris was wearing a seatbelt, but the force of the rollover killed him. He was 28 years old.
This past Friday, nearly 38 years after he was killed in the line of duty, Trooper Farris’ life and sacrifice was honored during a ceremony near the 203 exit, feet away from where Farris had died. CSP, much like any family, does not forget to honor and memorialize its own. Farris is one of 27 CSP troopers killed in the line of duty since the agency was established back in 1935, and all 27 will be honored with signs along the highways this year. On Friday, over a dozen troopers parked their cruisers on the shoulder and took time to honor the legacy of a man they had no chance to know.
A convoy of state patrol cruisers traveled down I-70 from Vail, escorting his surviving family members over the pass and stopping on the shoulder just short of Exit 203.
There, a sign had been erected in his honor with a black and blue covering and ribbons shielding it from view. Once removed, it revealed a blue sign that reads, “In memory of State Trooper James Farris,” with a Colorado State Patrol plaque placed underneath it. It will forever hold vigil over the stretch of highway where Farris lost his life.
Colonel Matt Packard, chief of the Colorado State Patrol, offered some words to commemorate the event as Farris’ family dabbed away tears.
“It is an honor and privilege to recognize Trooper Farris,” Packard said. “He gave his life trying to make Colorado a better place.”
P.J. DeVito, Farris’ widow, came all the way to Frisco from Vermont to attend the event.
“It’s amazing how much of a family the patrol is,” DeVito said. “I just want to thank them for everything they’ve done for us to keep his memory alive.”
DeVito said what she remembered best about Farris is something that many troopers possess: “His quiet strength.”
Aside from DeVito, Farris left behind three sisters and a brother. Thirty-eight years later, the pain of his death has faded, but his absence left a hole that has never been filled. The memorial at 203 helped bring some closure to an incomplete life.
Captain Richard Duran said that the troopers were honored to host DeVito and the rest of Farris’ family.
“It’s an honor to be here today to honor Farris in this special ceremony,” Duran said. Referring to DeVito coming all the way from Vermont to attend the ceremony, Duran added that “it showed how special she is, and how special he was.”
“She’s always been supportive of law enforcement and supportive of the Colorado State Patrol.”
When asked what drove him and his fellow troopers to do such a risky job despite knowing the cost if things go wrong, Duran’s reasoning was crystal clear.
“Our desire is always to help people on the interstate and the highways, educate people on how to be safe and to do good things for our community, and to do everything we can to save lives out here.”
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