First GarCo sheriff recognized for death on duty
The name of Andrew J. Rock, the first elected Sheriff of Garfield County, was placed Friday on the Colorado Law Enforcement Memorial at Camp George West in Golden. The memorial acknowledges all line of duty deaths of Colorado law officers.
“Sheriff Andrew J. Rock (aka A.J. Rock) was officially sworn in and bonded on Jan. 8, 1884, and was the first sheriff of Garfield County,” Undersheriff Colt Cornelius wrote in a letter of request to Keith Dameron, historian for the Colorado Law Enforcement Memorial. “On July 17, 1884, Sheriff Rock was returning to Glenwood Springs (county seat) after transacting official county business. Because of recent heavy spring runoff, raging waters of the Grand River (today known as the Colorado River) destroyed the only wagon bridge into Glenwood Springs and gaining access to the town was not an easy task. Sheriff Rock, while on horseback, attempted to cross on the Roaring Fork River side to get back to town. The rushing waters separated and swept Sheriff Rock and his horse away briefly, but Sheriff Rock was able to swim to shore and his horse surfaced alive on a small island of rocks in the area.
“The next day, July 18, 1884, Sheriff Rock and one of his deputies returned to the river bank to retrieve his horse so he could continue his duties. Sheriff Rock swam across the river and successfully made it to the island where his horse was. Sheriff Rock and his horse then attempted to cross back over the Grand River from the island to only be overcome again by the raging waters. Sheriff Rock’s deputy watched in horror as he witnessed his sheriff be swept underwater to never surface again. The deputy was able to immediately initiate search and rescue efforts but they were not successful in finding Sheriff Rock. A month later, on Aug. 19, 1884, Sheriff Rock’s body surfaced on the river bank over 20 miles downriver near Rifle.”
Dameron wrote in his letter of approval for Rock, “The tragic 1884 death of Sheriff Rock reminds us of the inherent dangers faced by all those involved in law enforcement work.”
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