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Residents, leaders express grief over loss of Cortez Police Sgt. Michael Moran

About 300 people took part in a candlelight vigil for Cortez Police Department officer Sgt. Michael Moran Thursday. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)
Sgt. Michael Moran is remembered as a friend, father and police officer

Two days after Cortez Police Sgt. Michael Moran was killed Wednesday in the line of duty, residents and leaders from Montezuma County, Colorado and the nation have expressed their grief about Moran and their support for his family.

The Cortez Police Department issued a statement on Wednesday, saying that he will be remembered “by his fellow officers for his dedication and sense of humor.”

Thursday night, nearly 300 people gathered to pay their respects to Moran during a candlelight vigil at the police department.

Sgt. Moran was killed in the line of duty on Wednesday. (Cortez Police Department)
About 300 people took part in a candlelight vigil for Cortez Police Department officer Sgt. Michael Moran Thursday in front of the CPD. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)
About 300 people took part in a candlelight vigil for Cortez Police Department officer Sgt. Michael Moran Thursday. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Moran was fatally shot Wednesday as he made a traffic stop on South Broadway. The gunman was killed minutes later in a shootout south of town.

Police officer Kurtiss Baumgartner tearfully spoke during the vigil about how Moran would flash a goofy smile and a joke in stressful situations, “immediately making everything OK.”

“He was always there for you,” Baumgartner said. “He was so passionate about the things he believed in. The world lost a true hero.”

City Councilor Matt Keefauver, a former principal at Southwest Open School, talked about how Moran visited to SWOS with his dog Otto to build a relationship with students.

Keefauver said it was all the students could talk about for the next few weeks, and that they had been thrilled to meet Moran and K-9 officer Otto.

“Michael was a father to two girls, he was a friend … and we’re here to remember him,” Keefauver said. “Michael was truly a special individual who gave everything for his community.”

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Another attendee at the candlelight vigil said that Moran embodied what it meant to be a true police officer.

“I’m going to miss him, I’m always going to miss him,” he said. “He loved coming to work, and he was amazing. He was a good cop. He was the true definition of a police officer.”

KaLlisha Henneberger expressed her sadness over the loss of Moran, saying that he had been a friend to her when she had no one.

“He was very good to me, me being who I am with a record,” Henneberger commented on Facebook. “He sat next to me in the hospital numerous times, never judging me, never reporting me, just setting his job aside and being a friend when I had nobody else in the world by my side. I’m very upset and mourning the loss of a good friend and somebody who would be by my side if I needed him. My condolences and prayers go our to his family and fellow officers. You will be truly missed Sgt. Moran. Rest in peace, my friend.”

The Cortez City Council released a statement speaking of the community’s loss.

“The Cortez City Council is deeply saddened about the death of Police Sgt. Michael Moran,” the statement said. “While in service to our city, Sgt. Moran made the ultimate sacrifice when his life was taken from him. This is a tragic loss to our entire community.”

“On behalf of the residents of the City of Cortez, we wish to thank him and his family for his service to our country and our city. During this extremely difficult time our deepest condolences are with the Moran family, the members of the Cortez police department and all those who loved and respected Sgt. Moran,” they continued. “The City of Cortez City Council supports our police officers and we are grateful they, even in grief of this loss, continue to serve as the guardians of our community.”

County Commissioner Jim Candelaria told The Journal that he has been receiving texts and phone calls from other commissioners in Colorado who expressed their condolences.

“As the Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, along with other phone calls, text emails that I've received from commissioners around the state, we would like to express our deepest condolences for the loss of Sergeant Michael Moran, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family,” Candelaria said. “We're definitely behind the City of Cortez PD and will offer any assistance that we can possibly provide for them if needed. This is a crime, as all crimes are, that is senseless. Words can't express really what happened. So our deepest condolences for to the family and for the loss of Michael.”

District Attorney Christian Hatfield also expressed his sense of loss.

“It is extremely tragic, and our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends. He was a consummate professional and a pleasure to work with. Anything my office can do to help victim advocates out and people around the state, Colorado District Attorney's Council and others, all expressed their willingness to help with anything we can do for the community. We're here,” Hatfield said.

Police departments in Rifle, Boston, Mountain Village, Colorado Springs, Mesa County, Jefferson County, Lafayette Colorado, El Paso, Durango and more posted statements about Moran and in support of the Cortez Police Department.

“Our office joins law enforcement agencies across the United States in mourning with the Cortez Police Department,” the El Paso Police Department said on Facebook. “Their loss is felt here in El Paso County and from corner to corner in Colorado. ‘Greater love hath no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’”

“Sending our deepest condolences to the Cortez Police Department as they grieve the loss of Sgt. Michael Moran in the line of duty on November 29,” the Mountain Village Police Department said via Facebook. “Our hearts are with the entire Cortez community, the officer’s family, friends and colleagues during this time.”

The Colorado Fallen Hero Foundation is accepting monetary donations that will be given to Moran’s family. Donations can be made at their website.

A memorial benefit is being held for Sgt. Moran’s family on Sunday, Dec. 10 from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the County Annex building, 107 N. Chestnut St. in Cortez. There will be a silent auction, and organizers are taking donations for the auction.

There will be chili, drinks and dessert for $10 a plate. Questions can be directed to Jaime Cox (970) 739-5421, Emily Baumgartner (970) 799-7501, Wendy Knuckles (970) 759-3365 or Elizabeth Edwards (970) 903-6703.

Moran will also be honored at the Parade of Lights on Saturday night. Funeral services are still pending.

From the Community and Facebook

“Sending my deepest condolences to Sgt. Moran’s family and fellow law enforcement. This is an absolute tragedy to befall a man of such great honor. Thank you for your service, sir, and may you rest in peace.” – United County Blue Sky Homes’ and Land’s Trena Yazzie

“Our hearts are grieved at the news of the loss of one of our courageous police officers. Words cannot express our gratitude for his service, nor our grief for his loss. We turn our hearts in times such as these to ‘the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in our tribulation.’” – Pastor Bruce Burkett of Lighthouse Baptist Church

“I do not know Sgt. Moran, but I know many like him who choose a life of service over a life of being served. Then there are those who choose a life of service in defense of our nation and our communities willing to lay down their lives for our freedoms. Sgt. Moran did both and ultimately, gave his life so others may live.” – Charles Evanson

“My family in Colorado Springs is devastated … hoping his family knows that others outside of their community feels the loss. Thank you to another hero who gave his life to keep others safe.” – Jennifer Catterson