If last February’s memorial service for slain Adams County Deputy Heath Gumm memorialized the man, a January vigil held to mark the one year anniversary of his death was about the community he left behind.
More than 250 gathered in the lobby of the Adams County Sheriff’s Department Commerce City substation Jan. 24 for the vigil. The crowd included sheriff’s department staff, Gumm’s co-workers, as well as family and friends.
Jim Gumm, the slain deputy’s father, thanked the community, comparing it to an extended family.
“I heard a statement one time that said the bigger the family, the stronger the family — and this is the biggest strongest family I have ever seen,” Gumm told the crowd of supporters. “I consider all of you my family.”
Gumm joined the Adams County Sheriffs office in 2012, transferring in from the Cripple Creek Police Department. He started in the Adams County Detention Facility but transferred into the patrol division in 2013. Gumm was shot and killed Jan. 24 2018 in a backyard near 87th and Edison Street in unincorporated Adams County, the third of three Colorado police officers killed in the line of duty within months of each other. Douglas County Deputy Zackari Parrish was shot on Dec. 31, 2017, Gumm on Jan. 24 and El Paso County Deputy Micah Flick was shot Feb. 5.
Adams County Sheriff Rick Reigenborn said it was a difficult time for Colorado law enforcement but family and friends have helped. He noted that public support for law enforcement has been on the rise.
“Things like this have been happening all across the country, but people really pay attention when it happens in their backyard,” Reigenborn said. “This happened to their cop, to their friend, and I think it made them pay attention.”
Mourners filled a Lafayette, Colorado church Feb. 2, 2018 for Gumm’s funeral , with thousands more lining the streets outside to honor the officer. Inside, six of his co-workers eulogized the deputy, recalling him as “Gummball,” a playful trickster and friend.
At the one year anniversary vigil, they gathered again, many wearing “Gummball” t-shirts and jerseys or clad in blue-line gear meant to show support for police. Everyone was given green or blue glowstick. The overhead lights were turned off for several minutes towards the end of the vigil and crowd lit the room with the light from the glowsticks.
Jim Gumm said that support made it possible for the family to survive the past year.
“I’ve been told that I’m so strong, that they don’t know how I do it,” Gumm said. “I’m not strong. My strength comes from all of you. If it were not for all of you, I would not be able to get out of bed in the morning — or take a breath on my own.”
He’s learned that community is a much strong bond then he’d imagined.
“We were told by family and friends — and even total strangers — that they would be there to help us survive this devastation,” Gumm said. “I remember thinking, give them a month and we will be traveling this path alone. Well, that was a year ago and it does not appear that we have traveled this path alone. People constantly tell us to let them know if there is anything they can do for us, and we know now they mean that.”
Former Sheriff Mike McIntosh, Gumm’s boss at the the time of the shooting, said the agency has grown since Gumm’s death.
“We’ve taken the time to make sure we came together as an agency, as a family and as a community,” McIntosh said. “Those days, as we walked through that process, were not easy. But we were able to learn so much about who we are through that process. One of the things that I absolutely underestimated was the way the community would come together and the way the community would pull together and become a part of this agency.”
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