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UCCS Officer remembered on Planned Parenthood shooting anniversary

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More than a dozen people gathered on the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs campus Monday night for a candlelight remembrance vigil for UCCS Police Officer Garrett Swasey on the second anniversary of his death in the Planned Parenthood shooting.

Swasey, 44, was one of three people killed in the mass shooting at the Planned Parenthood building on Centennial Boulevard on November 27, 2015.  Nine others were wounded, including five law enforcement officers.  The confessed killer, Robert Dear, of Park County, remains mentally incompetent to stand trial in the case.

"There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about Garrett," said UCCS Police Chief Marc Pino.  "As time goes by, it's easier to remember the good times, it's easier to remember the fun that we had.  We miss him and we love him and we're proud of him."

"His honor and his sacrifice is not forgotten," said UCCS senior Anjelika Hammack, who, in her role as President of the Alpha Phi Sigma Criminal Justice Society, organized Monday's remembrance event.

Since the Planned Parenthood shooting, roughly three quarters of the Pikes Peak Region's 1,200 law enforcement officers have been equipped with rifle-rated ballistic gear by the non-profit organization Shield 616.  "When they're going into these situations, they need to be protected against that threat if we expect them to protect us," said Jake Skifstad, founder and president of Shield 616.  In two years, the organization has raised $1 million in donations to outfit officers in eight states with $1,200 worth of equipment per officer.  "To be blunt, they've provided gear that the department can't afford to provide each individual officer, and those individual officers can't afford," said Colorado Springs Police Sergeant Jonathan Sharketti.  "This is designed to stop the threat that they saw that day," said El Paso County Sheriff's Lieutenant J.D. Ross.

"It's members of the community committing to donate money for the equipment and then provide prayer coverage, support systems, as well as replace the equipment in five or so years when it needs replacement," Sharketti said.  Skifstad says the next step for Shield 616 will be to armor patrol vehicles.  "Right now, the only protection we have is what I carry on my torso," said Sharketti.  "Having an armored vehicle is an exponential increase in our threat-level protection."

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