Students mourn UCCS Officer with candlelight vigil; other victims remembered

Dec. 7, 2015

Alexander Nedd
anedd@uccs.edu

When news broke of a UCCS police officer involved in an active shooter situation, a number of students and campus officials sprang into action.


Davy Mellado | The Scribe

Jake Loflin was one of them.

Loflin, a senior criminal justice major, was part of a student-driven initiative to help coordinate a candlelight vigil for Officer Garrett Swasey the day after the shooting, despite the campus being closed for Thanksgiving break.

The vigil was held on the evening of Nov. 28 at Gallogly Events Center. Students, faculty, police officers and members of the public lined the bleachers while listening to tributes to the father and past figure skating champion.

“We got in touch with over 2,000 students through one Facebook page in less than 18 hours,” said Loflin. “For such a short notice event, I am floored that we had the turn out that we did.”

Swasey was one of three victims who died after a gunman stormed inside the Planned Parenthood building in Colorado Springs on Nov. 27.

While the outpour of community involvement was seen as a touching tribute nationwide, Loflin didn’t expect anything less.

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Davy Mellado | The Scribe
“I think Colorado Springs is a very cohesive community,” he said. “We witnessed this during the New Life (Church) shooting, we witnessed this during the fires, the community comes together and comes out to make beautiful things like this happen.”

“I didn’t know Officer Garrett personally,” Loflin said. “But we all know him now. We are all able to share his light that he gave us, and by us sharing that we can all know him.”

Before the vigil, a moment of silence was observed at both the men’s and women’s basketball games.

“The decision was made in conjunction with the chancellor,” said sports information director Jared Verner. “We wanted to do something that recognized him on Saturday and also have a way for athletics to pay their respects to his family.”

The men’s basketball team, and their opponents from Ottawa University, wore sport bands made of athletic tape with the initials G.S. on them, a tribute to the fallen officer.

Sophomore business major Erik Nudson explained how the vigil first came together.

“We got in touch with a lot of students through Facebook,” said Nudson. “We met with people from event services that oversee Gallogly and got a plan on what we needed.”

Nudson said the support from others was overwhelming.

“We got contacted by the UCCS Police Department, the Pikes Peak Law Enforcement Board, Randy’s Towing,” he said. “We had a bunch of volunteers to help out around campus to make sure people could find Gallogly.”

The ceremony was originally planned outside on the West Lawn but was moved to Gallogly Events Center because of the weather.

“UCCS contacted us to move the event,” Nudson said. “It was such a big deal and very important to them and they wanted to help as much as they (could).”

Nudson introduced all the speakers at the vigil including the chancellor, Colorado Springs mayor John Suthers, UCCS chief of police Brian McPike and two elders from Hope Chapel who were a part of Swasey’s church.

Nudson said the candlelight vigil received dozens of donations and raised more than $700 for the family.

Once the services inside ended, the vigil moved to the mountain lion statue in the lower plaza. Despite the freezing temperatures, hundreds huddled around with candles and hand warmers while placing mementos around the statue.

Isaac Brumm, a freshman studying criminal justice, studies under McPike and met Swasey while working.

Swasey is the first UCCS officer to die in the line of duty, but Brumm says the dangers associated with the profession don’t deter hopefuls like him away.

“Situations like this encourage me and I’m sure other criminal justice students and future police officers around the country to go into this profession even more,” Brumm said. “I’m aware of the dangers, so was Garrett when he signed up here as a police officer at UCCS.”

“It just makes me want to be a police officer and public servant even more.”

A procession with UCCS police cars lit up the sky as the crowd sang “Amazing Grace.”

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Davy Mellado | The Scribe

While the support for Swasey continues, Nudson hopes people keep the families of the other victims in their thoughts as well.

“More lives were affected than just officer Swasey’s,” Nudson said. “Two people died, many were injured, this affects their friends and families as well.”

“The support shown to Swasey, we want the same to go out for the other individuals who were affected by this tragedy.”

“I give my condolences to his family,” Brumm said. “Garret was a man of God, he lived as a man of God and he died as a man of God.”

“His impact will be a lot greater than just tonight.”

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