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Bidding farewell to a fallen deputy

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By Steve Smith

LAFAYETTE – Law enforcement, first responders and friends and family came fromm far and wide Feb. 2 to say goodbye to Adams County sheriff's deputy Heath Gumm.

Gumm, 31, died in the line of duty Jan. 24 near Skyview High School in Thornton.

One by one, his patrol team members, his sergeant and Adams County Sheriff Mike McIntosh took turns describing Gumm as a deputy who could balance the warrior needs of the job with a sense of humor and a sense of compassion for his deputies and for members of the community he served.

"Heath was humble. He always offered me a helping hand," said Adams County sheriff's deputy Lonn Trail. "I knew if my friends was going to cover me, I knew I'd be safe. Heath was always there for me and for anyone else who needed a helping hand."

Adams County sheriff's Sgt. Casey Overton took on his new post in 2015. He started looking for a leader on his shift.

"Gumm was one of those leaders," Overton said. "Gumm was an approachable man who cared about those around him. He taught new deputies. He taught those around him and he taught his sergeant. He worked well with everyone."

Gumm's father, Jim, read a letter from gumm's widow, Natasha.

"So much time of our waking moments was spent smiling," her letter read. "He protected me during some of my darkest hours. I know he'd rather make us laugh. But I know he'd be honored by seeing so many people coming together.

Jim Gumm, a firefighter, said Heath Gumm enjoyed Power Rangers, Ghostbusters and "all things Star Wars" as a child. At 15, Heath Gumm ordered a surfboard online, even though he'd never surfed.

Adams County deputy Cole Cochrum said he and Cochrum were chasing a suspect. During the case, Gumm dropped out of sight. Cochran found a flashlight nearby and heard Gumm's voice in the distance.

"I thought he'd laid down bread crumbs during the search," Cochrum said. "We found the bad guy where Heath thought he would be. Later, we were talking war stories. He'd tripped and fallen, and his duty belt exploded."

Cochrum is a K-9 officer with the sheriff's department. Gumm didn't know much about that branch of law enforcement. One of his questions was how to get Cochrum's dog to bark. Cochrum obliged.

"Heath walked around to the window of my car and gave the command," Cochrum said. "My dog is a fireball with the highest-pitch bark you'll ever hear. He started muzzle-punching the window. Heath said, 'Wow. That works.'

"On a nightly basis, we'd meet up in a park to catch up on our paperwork," Cochrum continued. "Heath never failed to get Lexus' attention and get him to bark. Then he rolled up his windows and drove off so he didn't have to hear the barking.

"This was Heath. He was happy, joyful, a fun partner to work with," Cochrum concluded. "He made me strive to be a better deputy and a better man."

"Heath reached out to those to make sure they got what they needed," McIntosh said. "It's not easy breaking into law enforcement, especially if you're the new guy or gal. I had a deputy who hadn't been on the street very long talk about Heath and how he was the go-to guy and that the information he got was going to help him get through the shift."

The sheriff added that some of those aspects are available in teaching moments.

"To watch his family over the course of the last week, the strength of his father. He talked about integrity and courage and how Heath became the teacher," McIntosh said. "All of that is from his upbringing. That's how he became the man he is."

McIntosh read a letter from a woman whose drunk son spent a night in the Adams County Jail. The woman, who has two other sons, recently lost her husband before she got a call at 2:00 on a snowy, icy morning.

"(The person on the line) said, 'I have your son's backpack. He was picked up in a dangerous part of town. He said how sorry he was for being so drunk," the letter read. "I told him I was older and didn't drive as much at night. He offered to drive it all the way out here. I live in Aurora."

Forty-five minutes later, Deputy Gumm was on the doorstep.

"He told me my son was very cooperative and that he didn't want him out there in that condition," the letter read. "I can't tell you how touched I was and how emotional I was when I recognized the name and the picture of your deputy.

"I hope you find some peace in the number of lives he touched."

Gumm had eyes on becoming a detective. McIntosh said Gumm would be made an honorary detective.

The 90-minute funeral concluded with a 21-gun salute and the presentation of the American flag off the casket to Gumm's family.

"I don't think I've talked to anyone who didn’t have a funny story about Heath," Cochrum said. "He was always trying to plan ways to get together after our shift. He was the first guy to reach out to the new deputies to show them the ropes."

"He shared my passion for training officers," said Rachel Eid, who was a training officer at the Adams County Sheriff's Office before joining the Denver Police Department. "One of the last times I saw him was at a birthday party. He was talking about civil service and what it meant to him. He believed in what you all still do. And because he always asked me, yes, Heath. You were my favorite."