Slain Mesa County deputy remembered as family man
GRAND JUNCTION — Law enforcement colleagues gathered here Monday to mourn a Mesa County sheriff’s deputy who was shot and killed by a suspect whom prosecutors have described as a teen drifter who used drugs and stole guns.
Friends, relatives and strangers heard of Derek Geer’s commitment to his family and community during an hour-long funeral. So many people wanted to attend the service that Mesa County Sheriff’s Office arranged for a live stream to be shown in five other churches and a university theater.
In a letter read during the service in Canyon View Vineyard Church, Kate Geer said she and their two children were her husband’s priority. Senior Pastor Kirk Yamaguchi also spoke during the service, thanking God that Geer “was willing to lay down his life for the sake of protecting all of us.”
Sheriff Matt Lewis said: “Derek was a hero for this community.”
In an order calling for flags on all public buildings statewide lowered to half-staff Monday, Gov. John Hickenlooper noted that Geer had received a sheriff’s department medal in 2012 for reviving a heart attack victim.
About an hour before the service Monday, a bagpiper played as uniformed officers carried Geer’s flag-draped coffin into the church. At the end, hundreds of mourners stood as the pallbearers took the coffin out, marching in silence at a halting, mournful pace. Law enforcement officers from across the country wore their uniforms. Some mourners, including Geer’s wife and young son and daughter, wore blue T-shirts emblazoned with sheriff’s stars and his name.
Geer, 40, was shot Feb. 8 after responding to a report that a person carrying a gun and wearing a bandanna over his face had been spotted near two Grand Junction schools.
Lewis told reporters that on the day of the shooting, Geer had approached an armed 17-year-old male. The teen tried to flee when the deputy told him he would be detained as part of a weapons investigation, Lewis said.
Geer then fired his Taser, and the suspect “fired multiple times at the deputy,” Lewis said.
Two other deputies, who reached the scene moments later, found Geer unresponsive. The suspect had fled.
Nearby schools were placed on lockdown and law enforcement officers from across the region descended on the neighborhood of small homes, warehouses and vacant lots. The suspect was arrested about an hour later.
Geer, a Navy veteran who had been a sheriff’s deputy in Mesa County since 2001, was kept on life support while organs were removed for transplant. Lewis announced two days after the shooting that Geer had been taken off life support.
A judge last week ordered the teen suspect in Geer’s shooting jailed without bond, agreeing with prosecutors, who plan to charge him as an adult, that he is a danger to the community. Another court hearing is set for Tuesday.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark Hand said during an initial court hearing that the Grand Junction teen, who has been identified as Austin Holzer, had violated the terms of his probation in a Jefferson County sex assault case and a warrant had been issued for his arrest. Prosecutors said that the teen acknowledged using methamphetamine and breaking into cars to steal weapons. The serial number had been defaced on the handgun used to shoot Geer, prosecutors said.
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