DEPUTY GEER CONTINUES TO PROTECT LIVES
O∞cer “was a remarkable man in life and now beyond”
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.