Fallen Sheriff's Deputy Remembered by Thousands
The Denver Post via YellowBrix
November 30, 2010
GREELEY, CO — Samuel Kent Brownlee fastidiously picked the peas out of his chicken potpie, harassed but protected his little brother, and had blushed and stammered when asked about his soon-to-be-wife, Heather.
But what nearly 3,500 people heard most about the 43-year-old Brownlee at his memorial service Monday was that he wanted desperately to be a cop.
“Sam was all about service,” said Weld County Sheriff John Cooke, Brownlee’s boss. “And he loved being a deputy sheriff.”
Law officers from nearly every corner of the state — as well as from outside of Colorado — descended on Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion to honor Brownlee, who was shot and killed last week while trying to capture a reputed gang member in an Evans subdivision.
A sea of blue, gray and white uniforms, punctuated by Weld County’s dark brown, filled the pavilion while family, friends and Colorado’s governor spoke during a nearly two-hour memorial. Brownlee was lauded for his good nature and his service to the community.
“My brother was everything I wanted to be,” said Michael Brownlee. “He was a giant Boy Scout, a cowboy through and through, and a man of hard work and ethics.”
Brownlee’s flag-draped casket rested only a few feet from his family, which included two children, two stepchildren and his wife. The memorial was delayed for a half-hour to accommodate the crush of those who wanted to attend and pay their respect.
Police and sheriff’s departments from across the state sent representatives, as did the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the Defense Department. Agencies from Wyoming, New Mexico and Idaho, as well as others from out of state, attended.
That’s because Brownlee stood for the very best in people and law enforcement, said Gov. Bill Ritter, who ordered the state’s flags flown at half-staff Monday.
“We are grateful to Sam. He ultimately gave his life for us,” Ritter said.
Brownlee — who was the first Weld County deputy to die in the line of duty in 70 years — was killed after a 37-mile pursuit of 20-year-old Rueben Reyes last Tuesday. Reyes was reportedly involved in a domestic dispute near Fort Morgan and led police on a high-speed chase.
Reyes’ vehicle was finally stopped in an Evans subdivision where Brownlee and Reyes wrestled on the pavement before Reyes was able to get Brownlee’s gun and shoot him three times. Reyes — an alleged gang member — was then shot by an Evans police officer. Both Reyes and Brownlee later died at North Colorado Medical Center.
Brownlee, a five-year member of the sheriff’s office, was a decorated training officer who once revived an elderly patient with CPR. He was also one of the first to arrive to help families devastated by the 2008 Windsor tornado and ran into a burning building in a life-saving maneuver just days before he was killed.
Brownlee married Heather, who works in the Weld County district attorney’s office, in June 2009. Brownlee’s day-shift partner, Deputy Terry Reed, told the crowd that his buddies had been were searching for the right woman to be with him, and when he started dating Heather, he didn’t divulge too much about their relationship.
But when he finally married her, the department knew he had found the perfect partner for life.
“Heather made Sam complete,” Reed said. "He was someone I could depend on, someone I could trust. “He was a confidant and most of all my friend.”
“Take care, Sam,” Reed said. “We miss you.”
After the memorial, there was a 2-mile procession led by the Blue Knights Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club to Linn Grove Cemetery for a private family service.
The service at Butler-Hancock ended with bagpipers from the Denver Police Department’s District 1 performing “Amazing Grace.” The crowd also heard a traditional sign-off salute from Weld County dispatchers shortly before 11 a.m., roughly the same time Brownlee was gunned down.
“Dispatch calling 679. Recalling Weld 679. No response from 679. You gave it your all, Sam. God bless. We miss you, brother.”