EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — As SHIELD616 riders began this year's 480-mile Border-to-Border ride on Wednesday, the impact from fundraising efforts is only more palpable after the recent death of El Paso County Deputy Andrew Peery.
On Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022 Peery gave his life in the line of duty trying to save Alex Paz, who had been shot and killed by her ex-husband.
The two deaths have deeply impacted many people in our community — immediate families, first and foremost, as well as friends, neighbors and everyone at the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and the Fountain Police Department, who also responded to the shooting call that Sunday afternoon.
With the recent loss top of mind, the SHIELD616 border-to-border bicycle ride kicked off, with riders traveling from Utah to the Kansas border over five days to raise money for the Colorado Springs-based organization's mission of helping provide protective gear to first responders.
Ahead of the ride, El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder and Fountain Chief Chris Heberer sat down to discuss the loss of Peery and the impact on their departments.
“When I first took office it was my number one fear was being the sheriff when I lost someone in the line of duty," Elder said.
“I was at the hospital before Micah arrived, standing in the emergency room before Micah arrived and stood outside of his door the entire time they worked on him. Joe Roybal and I arrived at Memorial Hospital again with Andrew, and we arrived in the emergency room before anyone else. We were there before they finished working, trying to save his life," Elder said. "And I can just tell you that it just it takes away a piece of your soul, especially when it's good people.”
Heberer said his department and the sheriff's office have an especially close bond.
“There's not two formations that work more closely in the region than EPSO and Fountain police. We share a common dispatch center, so the dispatchers are able to see both Fountain units and EPSO units,” Heberer said.
The two agencies overlap on many calls, and as a result, officers and deputies get to know each other very well. Heberer said one of those people was Peery.
“He was an example to many, many, many people. Deputy Peery represented the very best of us. He wasn't an average soldier in the army, and he wasn’t an average deputy. He was the best of us. He represented the top 1%,” he said.
Heberer said the impact of Peery's death has been felt across the community.
“That night was very, very difficult for everybody involved. I got the call about 5:30 from the duty lieutenant. I knew there was a shooting. I knew some Fountain units were involved, that some EPSO units were involved, and I didn't know the status of anybody at that time. I just know anytime there is an event of that magnitude, there's going to be a lot of pain and a lot of suffering. Eventually, we learned Deputy Peery didn't survive. We also learned that three Fountain police officers and a fourth EPSO deputy had tried to rescue him from the house," Heberer said. "Literally one event that happens on Sunday at 5 p.m. is now going to impact hundreds of people — hundreds of people in this community, hundreds of people of law enforcement, hundreds of people that either knew the victim or knew Deputy Perry. And that loss is palpable and it's real and it's tragic and it's heartbreaking, and there's no easy way through it.”
Anyone interested in donating to SHIELD616 can do so on their website. This year, thanks to generous viewers, Denver7 Gives was able to contribute $2,500 to the fundraising campaign. Last year, our sister station KOAA helped the organization raise more than $66,000 during the event.