O∞cer “was a re­mark­able man in life and now beyond”

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Jesse Paul

Of­fi­cer, an or­gan donor, was shot on duty and died of his in­juries.

By the time Kate Geer ar­rived at the hospi­tal, it was too late.

Her hus­band, Mesa County sher­iff’s Deputy Derek Geer, had been shot sev­eral times by a teenager and was ly­ing in a hospi­tal bed, be­ing sus­tained by ma­chines. Doc­tors told her that the loving, self­less man she had built a life with was gone. There was noth­ing more they could do.

“My friend kept coax­ing me to talk to him,” Kate Geer re­counted in an in­ter­view Fri­day. “But I couldn’t. In­side, I knew he was al­ready gone. There was noth­ing to be done ex­cept to do­nate his or­gans.”

Now, 10 months af­ter the Fe­bru­ary shoot­ing that killed Derek Geer, his de­ci­sion to be an or­gan donor has pro­vided the fam­ily he left be­hind with four bit­ter­sweet ways to re­mem­ber — and in a way con­tinue — the fallen of­fi­cer’s life.

His heart now beats in a new body. His liver pow­ers an­other per­son’s me­tab­o­lism. His kid­neys are fil­ter­ing two oth­ers peo­ple’s blood.

“It does kind of soften the blow,” Kate Geer said. “Ob­vi­ously, we’re still griev­ing. We will al­ways grieve. But know­ing that los­ing his life wasn’t in vain, know­ing that four fam­i­lies are still cel­e­brat­ing their loved ones, it gives me com­fort.”

Geer now hopes her hus­band’s death af­ter the Feb. 8 shoot­ing will help oth­ers

fol­low his lead and have the or­gan donor con­ver­sa­tion.

“If by shar­ing his story and our story to get more peo­ple to have this dis­cus­sion with their loved ones, that would give us com­fort and re­ally make us happy through a bit­ter­sweet end­ing,” she said.

Au­thor­i­ties say Deputy Geer, a 15-year veteran, was fa­tally wounded while try­ing to con­front Austin Holzer, at the time a 17year-old wanted for a vi­o­la­tion of his pro­ba­tion on a sex of­fender charge. Geer, a 40-year-old Navy veteran, was try­ing to ques­tion Holzer amid re­ports of an armed sus­pect. The two spoke briefly, and the boy asked Geer if he was go­ing to be de­tained.

Geer said yes and then tried to stop Holzer with a stun gun when the teen ran away.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors say the boy pulled out a hand­gun, fired sev­eral bul­lets into Geer and fled. Holzer was later ar­rested and charged as an adult with first-de­gree mur­der of a peace of­fi­cer and sev­eral other felony ac­cu­sa­tions.

His prose­cu­tion re­mains on­go­ing, and court records show he is due in court next week for a pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing.

Geer, the father of 14year-old Ian and 12-yearold Macey, was re­moved from life sup­port two days af­ter the en­counter.

“He was first and fore­most a fam­ily man,” Kate Geer said of her hus­band. “He did ev­ery­thing from that per­spec­tive. He didn’t work over­time be­cause he’d rather be with us. To him, I don’t think be­ing re­mem­bered was very im­por­tant be­cause he wanted his legacy to be his kids.”

Derek Geer’s obit­u­ary said he was “per­fectly suited to law en­force­ment, al­ways ready to help his com­mu­nity.” To his wife, he was that and much more.

The cou­ple met through mu­tual friends in July 1999 while Derek, who was in the Navy, was sta­tioned in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia and Kate was mov­ing on af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Cal­i­for­nia State Univer­sity at Fuller­ton. By that Novem­ber, the cou­ple had moved to Grand Junc­tion — where Derek’s fam­ily lived — and were mar­ried.

“We knew pretty early on,” she said. “We met and mar­ried and moved within four months for no other rea­son than we just knew. It was love and friend­ship at first sight.”

Kate re­mem­bers that shortly af­ter the cou­ple moved to Colorado, she went to get a driver’s li­cense and the topic of or­gan do­na­tion came up.

“I had never checked the or­gan do­na­tion box,” she said. “He was the one that prompted the dis­cus­sion and had me check it. He was sup­port­ive of it from the very first mo­ment. He had al­ways been an or­gan donor on his li­cense.”

A few years later, Derek Geer be­came a sher­iff’s deputy. On Feb. 8, the deputy — a by-the-book of­fi­cer who once re­vived a young woman from a heart at­tack — woke up early for his day shift, kissed Kate good­bye and headed off for what would be his last pa­trol.

“Derek was a hero for this com­mu­nity,” Mesa County Sher­iff Matt Lewis said at Geer’s fu­neral.

Kate Geer is set to ride the Do­nate Life Float dur­ing the 128th Rose Pa­rade in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 2. She will be among 30 peo­ple on the float, many of whom are donor re­cip­i­ents or fam­ily mem­bers of donors.

“Deputy Geer was a re­mark­able man in life and now beyond,” said An­drea Smith, a spokeswoman for Donor Al­liance. “His self­less gift of life af­ter death saved the lives of four oth­ers in need.

“We hope his ex­am­ple will in­spire other Coloradans to reg­is­ter their de­ci­sions to be or­gan, eye and tis­sue donors.”

The Geer fam­ily has been in con­tact through let­ters with the peo­ple who re­ceived Derek’s or­gans. Kate Geer said she is open to more com­mu­ni­ca­tion in the fu­ture, but that the death of her hus­band re­mains a fresh wound.

“It’s been the hard­est 10 months of my life,” she said. “We’re do­ing OK. You just have to take each day. The kids are do­ing as well as can be ex­pected, if not bet­ter. We’re not let­ting this tragedy stop our life . ... We can’t stop liv­ing, be­cause Dad wouldn’t want us to.”

Derek Geer was killed Feb. 8.

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