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Family urges shooter to come forward

As the hard work of learning who shot Qwest executive Jeff Garrett goes on, investigators and family members hope the shooter will make things easier on everyone by giving himself up.Rick Lewis, Garrett’s uncle, is pleading that whoever shot Garrett while he was turkey hunting, or may know who shot him, will contact authorities.”Somebody knows what’s happened. I would hope that they would come forward,” Lewis said during a visit to Glenwood Springs after Garrett’s funeral in the Denver area.He said coming clean would benefit not only the family but the shooter.”They must be carrying a terrible burden,” Lewis said.Garrett, 37, of Aurora, died May 14 near New Castle. Garfield County sheriff’s investigators believe he was calling for turkeys while in a hidden spot and another hunter mistook him for a turkey and shot him. The shooter either may not have realized the error, or panicked and fled rather than reporting the shooting.Garrett was a top Colorado executive for Qwest, and left behind his wife, Charlotte, and two young children.Lewis called Garrett’s shooting “a great burden” on the family, and said learning who shot him and under what circumstances would help provide closure for a grieving family.He said the family believes the shooting was “a terrible accident,” and he hasn’t thought about what kind of punishment Garrett’s shooter ought to receive.”That’s not our interest right now. Our interest is to find out exactly what happened,” he said.Sheriff Lou Vallario also is appealing to the conscience of whoever shot Garrett.”Hopefully they’ll do the right thing and come forward or eventually break down and tell somebody, and they’ll tell us,” Vallario said.Anyone with information on Garrett’s death may call the sheriff’s department at 945-0453.Garrett was hunting on Bureau of Land Management land around 8,000 feet in elevation near East Elk Creek when he was shot.He was assistant vice president for Qwest in Colorado and had served as a spokesman and state lobbyist for the company. Lewis estimated that about 400 people attended Garrett’s funeral Thursday.The same day as the funeral, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and local investigators conducted a technical reconstruction of the shooting on the scene. The CBI also is doing ballistics testing on the fatal bullet.The bullet entered Garrett’s upper right chest from above, at a 45-degree angle. So far, everything continues to suggest that Garrett was killed while sitting down and leaning over while calling turkeys, Vallario said.Garrett was dressed in full camouflage. Turkey hunters aren’t required to wear blaze orange. The birds have sharp eyesight, and hunters generally try to call them in to within short range.Garrett was shot in an area where unlimited turkey hunting is allowed. That means anyone with a 2005 Colorado spring turkey license could have legally been hunting where Garrett was killed.Vallario said investigators have 12,000 licenses to pore over in seeking possible suspects.Lewis said one of his reasons for coming to Garfield County was to meet and thank, on behalf of Garrett’s family, the investigators and search and rescue crews who have had a hand in the Garrett case.He also felt a need to be here after hearing the cause of Garrett’s death. Lewis had first heard Garrett may have died from an accidental puncture wound.”When I finally heard it was most likely a bullet wound I just dropped everything and came this way.””It’s not that we can do anything other than be here. I just felt compelled to come here and I’m glad I did because everybody has been so compassionate,” he said.Vallario is glad the family appreciates his department’s work so far but understands that may change while the case remains unsolved.”I’m sure at some point they’ll get a little frustrated … but we’re going to keep on it,” he said.Lewis said the church community in Oklahoma, where Garrett grew up, is praying not only for his family but for Garfield search-and-rescue members because of how hard the discovery of his body has been on them.”After visiting with them, I know they’re troubled, too,” Lewis said.Vallario said most searches and rescues turn out well. He is arranging for counseling for those crew members who want it, to help them deal with Garrett’s death.Lewis continues to struggle himself with the loss of his nephew. Garrett was only five years younger than Lewis.”We were more like brothers than uncle-nephew,” he said.They spent a lot of time hunting and doing other things together when Garrett still lived in Oklahoma. He regrets not having done more with Garrett after Garrett had moved to Colorado.”He asked several times to go hunting. I always thought I had more important things to do and now I realize I didn’t.”Lewis finds comfort in indications that Garrett apparently didn’t suffer when he was shot, and instead just slumped over and died.”I think it was over very quickly,” Lewis said.But that does little to ease the loss for Garrett’s kin.”Jeff was just such a fine young man,” Lewis said. “He was the shining star of our family. He had done so well and had so many friends. He had a great wife, they were very happy together and he had two beautiful kids. They had everything going for them.”This was such a tragedy. I couldn’t describe a worse dream.”Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com


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