Breckenridge sergeant returns home for memorial service honoring slain Dallas officers
Breckenridge Police sergeant Patrick Finley was camping in Utah with a Boy Scout troop when he got the call. His wife told him the news: five officers shot and killed by a lone gunman in Dallas, his hometown.
“I didn’t know the severity of it until I started driving back,” Finley said. “I was devastated.”
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, the July 7 shooting was the deadliest day for law enforcement since 9/11, making for a total of 28 firearms-related officer fatalities so far this year.
The Dallas Morning News reported the five officers were slain during a peaceful rally following the deaths of 37-year old Alton Sterling and 32-year old Philando Castile earlier this month. Four Dallas Police officers died: Patrick Zamarripa, 32, Michael Krol, 40; Lorne Ahrens, 41; and Michael Smith. One Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Police Officer, Brent Thompson, was also killed.
“As the shots started, they went into action protecting these people. True heroes. They gave their lives while saving others,” Finley wrote in a reflection of his visit to Dallas.
Finley flew into Dallas/Fort Worth on Monday morning for the memorial services that would continue throughout the week. He worked for several years with the Highland Village Police Department, in a suburb just north of Dallas.
“The Highland Village officers took me in for two days,” he said. “That’s my home — that’s where I started out.”
After just three hours of sleep, Finley was picked up by officer Michael MacLean, who wore Finley’s old badge, number 516. Later that evening, they headed to a candlelight service.
“As we entered downtown I noticed a lot of police activity. I thought to myself, what are we driving into?” Finley wrote. “At that exact moment, I looked out the window and saw a man walking on the sidewalk, who yelled my way and saluted as we drove up.”
Thousands gathered outside City Hall, candles lit in memory of the fallen officers. The downtown skyline was illuminated in blue.
“Tonight downtown Dallas was filled with love,” he added. “I am proud that I am from Dallas. Tonight the world was able to see that love and Dallas standing strong together.”
Finley had not planned to attend President Barack Obama’s speech on Tuesday. The service was only open to a few high-ranking officers in the Dallas area. Then, Highland Village Police chief Doug Reim gave Finley his ticket, to accompany the department’s newest officer to the memorial. “I’ve been to, unfortunately, multiple officers’ funerals,” Finley said. “I had to bury a close friend. The funerals are hard, they’re very hard — to take the badge and brass off an officer to give to his family afterwards.”
Having served with Colorado State Patrol in the past, Finley attended the funeral of trooper Jaimie Jursevics, who was hit by a drunk driver while assisting with an accident.
A former trooper herself, Finley’s wife got to know Jursevics while she was working in Summit County. Kelly Finley noticed Jursevics was pregnant as she stood directing traffic and invited her in for a glass of water.
“I went to trooper Jursevics’ service. That was tough,” he said. ”With five officers’ funerals, that’s a lot.”
“In the middle of all this, Dallas (police department) still has a city to protect,” he added. “They need time to take this all in.”
After working as a corporal for Highland Village, Finley returned to Colorado for the second time — to take a job with the Breckenridge Police Department.
“We went to live in the mountains and raise our kids in the mountains,” he said. “The community policing in Breckenridge really interested me.”
Finley teaches DARE to elementary students and recently started a mountain bike patrol.
“I want to make a difference with those kids because those kids are going to grow up and have a future with us,” he said. “If they need help, they have somebody to come to.”
While Breckenridge has emphasized Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) to help officers better respond to situations involving mental illness or disability, the training applies to several aspects of the job. For example, de-escalating a case where emotions are running high.
“It is probably the worst day of their life, when you’re dealing with them,” Finley said. “Everything just happened and they don’t know what to do.”
In the end, Finley said, it’s family first.
“I want to go home at night,” he said. “I’ve got a family and two kids.”
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