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Colorado police officers remembered during local memorial

Law enforcement pay tribute to 10 who died in 2021, including Boulder Officer Eric Talley

Longmont, Boulder and Boulder County law enforcement came together on Thursday to remember the lives of 10 Colorado officers, including one of their own.

The annual Peace Officer Memorial took place at the Longmont Civic Center and honored the 10 Colorado officers who lost their lives in the line of duty in 2021. Across the country, 616 officers died in the line of duty last year.

In Colorado, that included eight officers who died of COVID-19, along with Arvada Police Officer Gordon Beesley and Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley.

Following open prayers from the departments’ chaplains, Boulder Police Deputy Chief Carey Weinheimer spoke in memory of Talley, who died responding to the Table Mesa King Soopers shooting last year.

“We all know how Eric died, but I want to take a minute to talk about how Eric lived,” Weinheimer said. “Eric lived as a man of faith. He was never pushy about it, but it infused his everyday life and was evident in the way he treated people. Eric lived as a devoted husband and father to seven children. Eric often brought his kids around the (police department) and you could just sense how proud he was.”

Weinheimer highlighted Talley’s care and compassion in everything he did. He also pointed to the outpouring of community support for the police department since Talley’s death.

“It is that kind of support that has kept us going and made this difficult journey from loss to healing all the more bearable,” Weinheimer said.

Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle spoke of the friends and families of law enforcement officers left feeling the pain of that loss. Growing emotional, he recalled his own experience of almost losing his son, Jeff Pelle, when he and three other colleagues in Douglas County were shot in an ambush on New Year’s Eve in 2017.

On the painful drive to the hospital, with his son in surgery, Joe Pelle reached out to his friends who are pastors in Longmont, who in turn reached out to their friends.

“While our son was in surgery, several thousand people were praying for him,” Joe Pelle said. “Powerful things happened.”

His son survived, but Jeff Pelle’s friend Zack Parrish did not. The Pelles became very close with Parrish’s family afterward.

“(I) felt the depth of that pain, the hurt, in a more personal way than I have ever experienced in my career,” Joe Pelle said. “So, it’s that pain and that concern that I share today and multiply that by the hundreds of officers whose lives were taken.”

Pelle encouraged people interested in supporting the families of fallen law enforcement officers to look into the Colorado Fallen Hero Foundation.

Longmont Police Chief Zach Ardis focused his speech on what he calls “the other line of duty deaths” — suicides.

“These first responders are often forgotten and overlooked in moments and times and opportunities like this,” Ardis said. “These first responders find no hope in their fight with the trauma associated with their service in our communities.”

In 2021, sucide was the second leading cause of death for police officers nationwide after COVID-19. Ardis highlighted the stigma around mental health, especially in law enforcement where seeking help often was perceived as weakness.

“I want to share with you today that seeking help is not a weakness,” he said. “The job that we ask our police officers and first responders to do takes a toll.”

Ardis said Longmont Public Safety is committed to providing access to peer support, counseling and other services for officers and their families.

The memorial also included the Knights of Columbus, bagpipes, buglers, a drummer, Longmont Police Explorers and the Longmont Police Honor Guard.