Members of the Longmont Police Department and Colorado State Patrol filled a Boulder County courtroom Tuesday to watch a judge sentence the man who killed one of their own to what would be life plus 342 years in prison.
Christopher Gebers, 28, was convicted of first-degree murder in the May 2015 death of Cadet Taylor Thyfault back in September.
He also hit and severely injured Trooper Clinton Rushing. Prosecutors say Gebers was speeding away from a traffic stop, and hit the two men at the scene of an unrelated crash they were investigating.
Rushing, who has since been promoted to the rank of sergeant, was one of the victims who testified on Tuesday. He told the court he doesn’t remember the crash, but that he woke up in pain, with bones sticking out of his legs and a shattered arm.
It wasn’t until later that he learned Thyfault had died.
“It hurts to wake up in the morning,” Rushing said. “I wake up in the middle of the night in pain.”
Rushing’s wife also testified, saying she wishes her husband could sleep, and that despite everything that’s happened, “he’ll never let on he’s hurting.”
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People in the courtroom cried as Thyfault’s grandmother read a dedication he wrote to his single mother his junior year of high school.
As a teenager, Thyfault wrote a list of 25 goals he wanted to accomplish before he died. He was already an army veteran and in the final stages of cadet training by the time he was 21 years old.
One of his goals was to save a life -- which was one of his final acts before he was hit and killed by Gebers. A tow-truck driver at the scene of the initial wreck says Thyfault told him to get out of the way.
"I'll forever be proud of him," Thyfault's mother, Carole Adler, said during the sentencing hearing."He's my greatest accomplishment."
Prosecutors say Gebers blames officers on the scene for Thyfault’s death.
Gebers “was a meth dealer who wanted to run from police,” according to prosecutors, and “he wanted to protect his stash of meth.”
He was on probation for drugs and going 100 miles per hour when he hit Thyfault. Gebers was slated to automatically receive a life sentence for the cadet's death.
Gebers' attorney told the court that his client wanted to take responsibility for what happened. He says Gebers spent most of his life behind bars -- and that the former foster kid's first time appearing in court in shackles was when he was 10 years old.
"I'm sorry to anybody impacted by this," Gebers told the court. "All I can say is that I'm sorry. I made an unfair choice. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to kill anybody."
During the hearing, he turned to the victims' families and admitted there is nothing he can say that will make what happened go away.
Thyfault, who was posthumously promoted, is one of three Colorado State troopers killed in the line of duty in recent months.
Trooper Jaimie Jursevics, the mother of a young daughter, was killed by a drunk driver in November of last year.
Her husband was in the courtroom Tuesday for Gebers’ sentencing.
Another trooper, 32-year-old Cody Donahue, was hit and killed on Interstate 25 south of Castle Rock. Investigators say a truck crossed the white lines and hit him in the shoulder of the highway while he was investigating a separate crash
Donahue was a father of two who has been with Colorado State Patrol for 11 years.