'Every officer will carry that heaviness with them': Aurora chief's message on lives lost, police heroism

Aurora chief writes about the shooter, the lives lost and responders' heroics

 
Daily Herald report
Updated 2/20/2019 1:57 AM
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  • "Our city will never be whole again," Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman wrote Tuesday. "We've lost humans, and the void they leave can never be filled. But we are the people of Aurora, and we have always been survivors."

      "Our city will never be whole again," Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman wrote Tuesday. "We've lost humans, and the void they leave can never be filled. But we are the people of Aurora, and we have always been survivors." Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer, Feb. 15

Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman says she will never again speak the name of the man who shot and killed five employees of the Henry Pratt Co. and wounded five police officers.

"I said his name one time for the media, and I will never let it cross my lips again," Ziman said Tuesday in a social media post.

Here's the chief's entire post:

"It's been roughly 96 hours since a disgruntled employee who was being terminated killed five people and shot five police officers at the Henry Pratt factory. I said his name one time for the media, and I will never let it cross my lips again.

"It's been 96 hours since those family members have had to endure the reality that their loved ones are never coming home.

"It's been 96 hours since I heard the call go out over our radios and listened to the incident unfold. I was on my way to the scene when I listened to the first officer advise he'd been shot. And then the next one. And then everything went dark around the edges. Every time an officer was hit, another went in. No one retreated. They forged ahead with shields and weapons as true warriors do and no one backed down until the threat was eliminated. We learned right away that there were casualties, and I can't tell you how hard it was to hear that we were too late to save them. Every officer will carry that heaviness with them. It becomes a part of them now.

"Every on-duty Aurora police officer showed up at the scene ready to go in and fight. Off-duty officers came to battle. As we were coordinating operations, I looked around and saw hundreds of uniforms from all over the state standing at the ready. I lost count of how many agency heads walked up to me and said, 'We have a team here. Tell us what you need.'

"This is a familiar feeling to me. The law enforcement family has strong bonds, and it was no surprise to me that they all showed up. But I was still overwhelmed by it.

"Our Special Response Team leaders coordinated SWAT teams from other agencies. Our brothers and sisters from the Aurora Fire Department staged their medics and swooped in as needed. Ambulances from other jurisdictions waited in line to do the same.

"As the shooter was still at large in the building, teams were sent in for dual missions: to locate and stop the shooter and to find and rescue victims. Our Rescue Task Force (RTF) training with APD and AFD in the months earlier prepared the team of medics and police officers who forged into the building. Our tactical officers were well equipped to cover vast space within the structure. It was like a giant game of hide and seek -- except for the person hiding was trying to kill them.

"When they finally found him in the rear of the building, shots rang out again, and those of us on the outside held our breaths until we would hear confirmation that the shooter was down.

"This wasn't supposed to happen in our city. That evil soul shouldn't have taken others down because he was angry. He shouldn't have even had a weapon. Lives shouldn't have been stolen.

"But it did. 96 hours ago, it happened. Our officers are going to pull through. A few of them have a long road to recovery, but they are going to live. Some have emotional wounds, but they are strong and resilient, and they will prevail.

"Our police department and our city have been inundated with support by way of food, flowers, letters, and well wishes. On behalf of the men and women of the Aurora Police Department, we are grateful to those of you who have gently placed your hands on our backs. We feel it.

"The officers who were shot that day put their own lives at risk to save others. They are what it means to be a warrior. Those who were in the gunfight and those who stood ready to battle are just as worthy of the term 'hero.' I have never been prouder to serve the men and women of APD as I was on that Friday afternoon. Warriors only pick up their swords to protect those they love from harm. The love our officers have for this community has never been more apparent.

"When I looked into the faces of the victim's family members yesterday, I felt the pain of their profound losses. I told them our officers tried to save their loved ones. I know they know that, but I also know it's not good enough. It wouldn't be for me, either.

"Our city will never be whole again. We've lost humans, and the void they leave can never be filled. But we are the people of Aurora, and we have always been survivors. Every single one of us will wrap our loving arms around the families of Clayton, Trevor, Russell, Vicente, and Josh and we hold on tight.

"We are Aurora Strong."

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