On Sunday, August 7th, 2022 El Paso County Deputy Andrew Peery gave his life in the line of duty, trying to save Alex Paz who had been shot and killed by her ex-husband. The two deaths have deeply impacted many people in our community.
Immediate families, first and foremost - as well as friends neighbors and so many others including everyone at the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, and the Fountain Police Department who also responded to the shooting call that Sunday afternoon.
Ahead of the SHIELD616 border-to-border bicycle ride this week across Colorado, both Sheriff Bill Elder and Fountain Chief Chris Heberer sat down with me to try and discuss the loss of deputy Peery and the impacts on their departments.
Sheriff Bill Elder recalls, “When I first took office it was my number one fear was being the sheriff when I lost someone in the line of duty.”
Sheriff Elder has now dealt with the loss of 3 deputies in the line of duty. Micah Flick in 2018, Jeff Hopkins in 2020, and now Andrew Peery in August of this year.
Each loss has been difficult to bear says, Sheriff Elder. “You know, I was at the hospital before Micah arrived. Standing in the emergency room before Micah arrived and stood outside of his door the entire time they worked on him. Joe Roybal and I arrived at Memorial Hospital again with Andrew, and we arrived in the emergency room before anyone else. We were there before they finished working, trying to save his life. And I can just tell you that it just it takes away a piece of your soul. Especially when it's good people.”
Chris Heberer the Chief of Police in Fountain says, “There are not two formations that work more closely in the region than EPSO (El Paso County Sheriff’s Office) and Fountain police. We share a common dispatch center so the dispatchers are able to see both fountain units and EPSO units.”
The two agencies overlap on many calls and as a result officers and deputies get to know each other very well. Chief Heberer says of Deputy Peery, “
And how good was Deputy Andrew Peery, “He was an example to many, many, many people. Deputy Peery represented the very best of us. He wasn't an average soldier in the army, and he wasn’t an average deputy. He was the best of us. He represented the top 1%.”
The impact of losing Deputy Peery goes beyond his family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues and of that fateful Sunday evening Chief Heberer says, “That night was very, very difficult for everybody involved. I got the call about 5:30 from the duty Lieutenant. I knew there was a shooting, I knew some Fountain units were involved, that some EPSO units were involved, and I didn't know the status of anybody at that time. I just know anytime there is an event of that magnitude there's going to be a lot of pain and a lot of suffering. Eventually, we learned Deputy Peery didn't survive. We also learned that 3 fountain police officers and a fourth EPSO deputy had tried to rescue him (Deputy Peery) from the house. So literally one event that happens on Sunday at 5:00 PM is now going to impact hundreds of people, hundreds of people in this community, hundreds of people of law enforcement. Hundreds of people that either knew the victim or knew Deputy Perry. And that loss is palpable, and it's real and it's tragic and it's heartbreaking and there's no easy way through it.”
SHIELD616 riders started this year's 480-mile Border-to-Border ride on Wednesday for a 5-day event to raise awareness and funding for the Colorado Springs-based organization's mission to help first responders by providing protective gear.
For the fourth year in a row, KOAA News5's Ira Cronin will be joining a team of riders dedicated to helping raise funds for SHIELD616. The riders will travel over 480 miles over 5 days from Utah to the Kansas border. The ride will take them through scenic Colorado to start. Tune in to KOAA News5 for more updates as we follow along for the ride.
Last year, we helped the organization raise more than $66,000 during the event. Know that your donation goes towards to purchase of life-saving equipment. Each set of gear for a first responder costs $2,400.
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