Chris Whiteman and his 16-month-old son, Micah, stood alone at the crossroads of Colorado Highway 7 and 119th Street east of Lafayette, waiting for the hundreds of police and rescue vehicles to stream past them.
The police procession was escorting the body of a slain Arvada Police officer.
They happened to be the only two civilians who came out to that location to pay their respects and honor Officer Dillon Vakoff, who was killed in the line of duty Sunday.
"I'm training to become a police officer, so this hits me really hard," said Whiteman, 37, of Superior.
Whiteman said he was at the Boulder King Soopers when Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley, 51, a 10-year veteran of the department, was killed on March 22, 2021. That day, a gunman stormed the grocery store and killed 10 people, including Talley.
Whiteman is studying at Red Rocks Community College and hopes to enter the police academy soon.
"I want my son to know if daddy is killed in the line of duty, these officers out here are doing a very important job," Whiteman said.
They watched the sad, but all-too-familiar, ritual of police vehicles from around the state – and even as far away as Utah – descended on Lafayette for the procession to Flatirons Community Church. It’s the third officer in the past 17 months to be memorialized at the church.
Arvada Police School Resource Officer Gordon Beesley was ambushed, shot and killed in June 2021 in Olde Town Arvada. Chief Link Strate said Beesley was "targeted because he was wearing an Arvada police uniform and a badge."
At least 85 agencies sent vehicles to the procession, which took a full 20 minutes to pass through the prairie intersection.
Dozens of motorcycles led the men and women of the force, followed by the hearse carrying Vakoff’s body. Then came the black stretch limousines presumably carrying the family. Arvada police cruisers followed.
Police officers from departments from as far away – and as small – as Dacono and Basalt to as large as Denver and Colorado Springs came. Others traveled from as far away as Utah to as close as Erie, Lafayette and Broomfield.
The military sent a vehicle – fitting as Vakoff was a U.S. Air Force veteran – as did the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, U.S. Transit Police, U.S. Department of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and numerous fire departments.
Asked if he was a little old to become a police officer in a career change, Whiteman replied, “Officer Talley was 40 before he joined the force.”
“So few younger people are becoming police officers,” Whiteman said. “I just wish a lot more of the community were here, too.”