FREMONT COUNTY — Just weeks after the 9/11 attacks on the United States, small Fremont County, Colorado experienced its own terror. Two heavily armed and dangerous fugitive brothers on the run, shooting at anyone in their way. Fremont County Sheriff's Deputy, Jason Schwartz was killed. 20 years later, the Highway 50 and Highway 115 bridge where he died will be dedicated with his name.
"As time goes by things change, life changes, relationships change, but the loss of that day and the trauma of that day is definitely embedded in my soul,” said his widow, Sheryl Schwartz. She is grateful her husband’s memory is being honored.
It was a brutal situation 20 years ago. ”September 28th, Jason was working the swing shift,” said Sheryl. Deputy Schwartz was called to a disturbance over a dog being shot. Joel Stovall was arrested. His twin brother Michael was also arrested for reportedly threatening an officer.
At least one brother was searched. A gun, knife and other personal items confiscated. Sadly, things were missed and it proved deadly "Both of them were placed in Jason's vehicle and one of the brothers had a plastic handcuff key on his person," said Sheryl. There was also a gun one of them had hidden in his pants. Together in the back of the patrol car they got their hands free. They pried between the protective barrier to kill Deputy Schwartz in the driver’s seat. "Shot him four times in the head." The brothers pulled him from the car and kept shooting into his body.
They fled, got more weapons, also a vehicle. They spent the next 24 hours on the move and shooting at any law enforcement that got near them. There were 17 officers with wounds or near misses. Florence City Police Officer Toby Bethel was paralyzed. The brothers eventually gave up the chase and were arrested.
Sheryl Scwhartz leaves the Stovall brothers future to the justice system. “Being angry, blaming, being upset doesn't help resolve the situation." To “move on” she forgave them long ago.
If asked, she gives thoughts on the brothers, but said other memories related to her husband's death are more common. "I think about the people I've met through the years who were impacted by that day. I think about my child, I think about the good memories about Jason."
That son is now 20. He was just five weeks old when his father was killed. His name changed from Mason to Jason after his dad’s death. “I changed his name in honor of his dad," said Sheryl. Jason Jr.’s memories of his dad are from stories told by others. "We talk about the good things and the funny things.
Sheryl has spent the last two decades as a peer supporter for other law enforcement families who have lost someone in the line of duty. She is also a counselor for troubled youth.
Family, friends, and former colleagues will gather at the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday September 28th for the bridge dedication ceremony. It is to show that his sacrifice is not forgotten.