A stoic community said goodbye Monday to a sheriff’s deputy who lost his life trying to keep the peace.
Derek Mace Geer, 40, of Grand Junction, was shot and killed February 8, while trying to arrest a teenager wanted for violating his probation. The teen, Austin Holzer, was taken into custody shortly after the shooting.
Hundreds of residents lined the procession route from Callahan Edfast Mortuary to Canyon View Vineyard Church. Among the crowd, Julie and Micah Berg and their three children.
“We’re showing our kids how important it is to show support for police, who work hard every day so we can be safe,” Micah said.
“I think it’s important for us to show our children that cops are not to be feared,” Julie Berg said. “I know Kate (Geer’s wife) and I think it’s important, as a community, to show our support for someone who gave his life serving and protecting us.”
Law enforcement officers from across Colorado, and from cities around the country, took part in the procession and memorial service.
“It’s important for us to come together as a family and show support to the community and to (the deputy’s) family,” said Officer Crystal McCoy of the Aurora Police Department. “We’ve got New York and Chicago with us today and several Aurora police officers.”
Two thousand people packed the church for the 1 p.m. service.
Mesa County Sheriff Matt Lewis said Deputy Geer, a 15 year veteran of the department, was happy and a fun guy to be around.
“He never took himself too seriously,” the Sheriff said. “He was strong. He was loyal. He was steadfast in his commitment to this organization and to his peers.”
But Lewis added that Geer wasn't defined by being a deputy.
“What defined him, was his love for his family,” Lewis said. “Nothing in his life was of greater importance. He always made decisions with his family as a priority and he cared deeply for his children.”
Church Pastor Kirk Yamaguchi said Derek selflessly confronted an armed man and sacrificed his life for the protection of everyone in the community.
“Only the Lord knows how many other victims there could have been, of senseless violence, if Derek didn’t confront that young man,” Yamaguchi said.
After the service, there was another procession to Orchard Mesa Cemetery.
Geer was born in Okinawa, Japan, on November 15, 1975, to David Foster Geer, Jr. and Sandra Lorraine Geer, while his father was stationed at Kadena Air Force Base.
The family then moved to Phoenix, residing there for ten years before transferring to Soesterberg, Netherlands.
Four years later, the family returned to Grand Junction and Derek graduated from Central High School in 1994.
He then joined the Navy. That’s where he met his wife, Kate. They married in 1999.
Geer is survived by his wife, Kate and their two children, Ian and Macey.