DENVER — The pictures were staggering: A solid, somber sea of blue along Fifth Avenue in New York City for the funeral of NYPD officer Wilbert Mora, one of two officers shot to death while responding to a call for a domestic dispute.
Amid the thousands of officers who paid their respects were three from the Denver Metro area: Thornton Police Detective Mike Couture, Aurora Police Officer Stacee Sparks and Aurora Police Sgt. Tim Jeffrey.
All three are members of the Colorado chapter of Brotherhood for the Fallen, which sends officers to police funerals throughout the country.
A 29-year veteran of the Aurora Police Department, Jeffrey founded the Colorado chapter of Brotherhood for the Fallen in 2015. Since then, the organization has sent members to nearly 200 funerals, from Alaska to Florida. Jeffrey says he has been to about 35 himself.
"If I don't cry at least once while I'm there or prior to going, I mean, just talking about it chokes you up," Jeffrey said. "There, but for the grace of God, go I."
According to the FBI, 73 law enforcement officers were intentionally killed in the line of duty last year. That's almost 16 more than the average for the last five years, 27 more than in 2020 and the most since 2001.
Despite the significant increase in the number of officers intentionally killed, COVID was, by far, the leading cause of the 520 line of duty deaths last year nationwide. More than 350 officers died of the virus in 2021.
Two of the intentional police deaths last year were in Colorado: Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley was killed trying to stop the King Soopers shooting and Arvada Police Officer Gordon Beesley was ambushed in Olde Town Arvada.
Tim Jeffrey says he can't explain the recent increase in officers being murdered, and he does not see an end in sight.
"It's a societal problem," Jeffrey said. "There was a slogan that we had, God please let this be the last one, but we know, unfortunately, it's not."
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