HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. -- As the Douglas County community mourns the loss of Deputy Zackari Parrish, one woman is crediting him with saving her life in an unexpected way.
Angela Jensen says Parrish pulled her over a couple of years ago on a cold November night. She had been out with her friends drinking and got behind the wheel.
“I was going down a really bad path. My daughter was 8 months old. It was her first night away from me,” Jensen said.
Parrish conducted a field sobriety test and eventually arrested Jensen for driving under the influence.
Jensen said Parrish remained calm the entire time and spoke kindly to her.
“I just remember him saying, ‘Good people make mistakes. You’re not a bad person,’ and he talked to me so calm, you know, and I felt like God put him in my life for a reason,” she said.
Jensen was put on probation and ordered to take alcohol education classes. At her probation hearing, she wanted Parrish to know that he made an impact on her life.
“I wrote a letter apologizing and saying I understand what this can do and I’m going to change and I’m not going to put you or your family at risk. It definitely changed me a lot,” Jensen said.
Not too long after that, Jensen decided to sign up for a Castle Rock Police Department citizen’s academy course.
“As I was doing my paperwork, he was sitting in the cubicle next to me and I was too shy to go and say thank you so I didn’t,” Jensen said.
Then, about a year ago, Jensen got a second chance. She was driving home to Castle Rock during a snow storm and Deputy Parrish pulled her over once again, this time for a broken taillight.
“So he came up to the car and I said, ‘You may not remember me but about a year-and-a-half ago, you pulled me over for drinking and driving, and I wanted to say thank you because I don’t know where I would be, I don’t know where my daughter would be,’ and he just got this amazing smile on his face,” Jensen said.
When Jensen heard the news of Parrish’s passing, at first she didn’t believe it was him. She had only ever known him as Officer Parrish from the Castle Rock Police Department. He worked there for 2 1/2 years before transferring to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office seven months ago. But when she looked back at the police report with his full name on it and started seeing his picture on the news and online, she knew it was him.
“That’s when I realized I wasn’t going to have the opportunity to say thank you to him and his family for saving my life and...for me to have my daughter. It was really, really hard,” Jensen said.
Jensen, along with hundreds of others, attended Monday night’s vigil for Deputy Parrish. She took pictures to show her daughter when she grows up so she can tell her about the police officer who changed her life.
“I want to tell people my story and tell everybody about how he treated me because there are so many crazy things that happen and officers deal with a lot. I want people to see that they’re not all bad cops. They really do care about their community and the people who live around them,” Jensen said.
To pay it forward, she’s thinking about becoming a driver for a ride-share company to encourage people not to drink and drive.
She also wants to share one message to the family of Deputy Parrish and to his fellow law enforcement officers.
“His flame is never going to burn out and they had an amazing man on their team. He may not be here physically, but he is here in spirit, and the best thing that we can do is just keep him in our hearts and he’ll go everywhere with us,” Jensen said.