Archive for January, 2018

The right question to ask focuses on how life was lived

We all have known someone who has sadly passed away. And many times we find ourselves answering a very common question when we speak with another person who just found out about someone’s passing, “How did he or she die?”

That’s usually the first question right? It’s natural curiosity and basic human instinct to want to know. I would like us to challenge ourselves to ask a different question the next time we find ourselves in the same position. If we are ever asked how another person passed away, our new response should be, “First can I share with you how he or she lived?”

As people pass away, the reasons or causes aren’t nearly as important as how the person spent their time here on earth. Who were they? What did they do? What were they passionate about? How did they bring joy to others? How did they serve this world? What was the most amazing memory you have of that person? You see, how they passed away isn’t the story, the story is how they lived.

Let me share with you a story of someone who was very close to me and my family. Her name was Dr. Jill Pechacek. She was our family doctor for more than 17 years. You may have known Dr. Jill and maybe even know how she passed away. But instead of talking about how she passed, is it OK if I share with you how she lived?

“Every office visit began with a hug and a smile. These were genuine hugs and smiles. Each office visit included caring and thoughtful questions. Any time spent with Dr. Jill felt like she truly cared for you. She served hundreds of patients, but when she was with you she made you feel like you were her only patient. I was traveling on business in Mexico a few years ago and unfortunately became very sick, ending up in a hospital in Monterrey, Mexico. We called Dr. Jill and she literally stayed up through the night speaking with the doctors at the hospital. She made sure I was OK to travel and that I was OK. Not an on-call doctor, she personally stayed with me by telephone all night long.

“There must be hundreds of patients with similar stories because that is how Dr. Jill lived. How she lived was with love, kindness, caring, genuine sincerity, smiles, hugs, wisdom and warmth. She lived with intentional and focused love for her children, she lived as a proud mom. I could have easily just told you how she passed away with two words and been done with it. But I would have missed out on an opportunity to share with you who she was and how she lived. And I would have missed the warmth that fills my heart and the tears of love and appreciation that are rolling down my cheek right now as I tell you how she lived.”

Someday, hopefully a long time from now, someone will ask someone else how we passed away. And wouldn’t it be great if they would stop and say, “Can I first share with you how they lived?” And then when they share how we lived, what will that sound like? Will they say we lived with purpose, passion, and joy? Will they say we were awesome loving spouses and parents? Will they say we lived as a loving servant to God? Will they say how we made them laugh, helped them fulfill their dreams, listened to them when they needed us most? Will they say we were a difference maker in their life? Will they say we filled them with faith, hope, and love? Or will they say something else about us?

If we think about this right now, and if we really don’t like what we think people might say about how we lived, there is still time to change that. I mean, if you are reading this column right now there is still time for sure.

The wrong question to ask is, “How did they pass away?” The right question to ask is, “Can you tell me how they lived?”

So how about you? Are you creating memories for others who will one day happily share how you lived? I bet you are and I would love to hear all about it at And when we can remember and then share how our friends and loved ones lived, it really will be a better than good week.

Michael Norton is a resident of Castle Rock, the president of the Zig Ziglar Corporate Training Solutions Team, a strategic consultant and a business and personal coach.

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Funeral services set as community grieves in wake of fatal shooting of deputy

The only thing that the Adams County Sheriff’s Department was saying officially about a Jan. 24 shooting in the 8700 block of Dawson Street was that one of their own, 31-year-old Deputy Heath Gumm, had been shot and killed.

From Sheriff Michael McIntosh to District Attorney Dave Young, officials were silent on just about everything else they know about the shooting, from what led up to it to what kind of weapon was used.

Via Twitter on Jan. 26, the sheriff’s office identified 22-year-old Dreion Martise Dearing as the suspected shooter, but McIntosh declined to talk about the suspect and demanded that media not use his photograph. Dearing was in court Jan. 26 facing charges of first-degree murder of a police officer, assault and burglary and was due back in court Jan. 31 for a formal-charges hearing.

It’s a sad, difficult time for his office, McIntosh said at Jan. 26 press conference, before asking the media to give deputies the weekend off from media questions.

McIntosh said police were no longer looking for two other men involved in the incident. McIntosh said deputies were able to contact the two and met with them. They have not been charged with any crime and are free, he said.

Investigators released the Dawson Street crime scene the afternoon of Jan. 26, but McIntosh said police were still speaking with potential witnesses.

McIntosh said there were no other updates and that no other information would be released over the weekend.

A funeral for Deputy Gumm has been scheduled for 11 a.m. Feb. 2 at Flatirons Community Church, 355 W. South Boulder Road in Lafayette.

McIntosh also said his department was attending three funerals for retired sheriff’s office personnel over the weekend and into this week, including a service for former Sheriff Bill Shearer.

“The Adams County Sheriff’s Office, right now, is grieving, we are hurting and we are doing an investigation,” McIntosh said. “We are running hard and trying to make sure we are covering all of the appropriate information that we need to cover. We need some time this weekend to make sure we are connecting the dots to everything that is going on.”

Assault reported

Gumm was among the Adams County deputies who responded to reports of an assault in progress at 7 p.m. Jan. 24 on Dawson Street near 87th on reports of an assault in progress.

When told the suspect had fled the scene, deputies began searching the area and contacted a male that matched suspect descriptions, according to the sheriff’s office’s original news release.

According to the release, the suspect ran and deputies pursued him behind a nearby house, where he allegedly pulled out a gun and began shooting, striking Gumm in the chest.

Gumm was taken to an area hospital and pronounced dead there. Gumm lived in Westminster with his wife and family members. He had been with the Adams County Sheriff’s Office since 2012.

McIntosh said Gumm was wearing a tactical vest that the deadly bullet bypassed.

“There are places on a vest that are not protected, and sometimes this is what we see,” McIntosh said. “Until we get further into it, we will not know what happened, whether it was a failure of the vest or if it struck an area the vest did not cover.”

The suspect, meanwhile, ran off but was later found and taken into custody. Deputies continue looking for two other men regarding their involvement in the initial assault.

McIntosh said police had the area shut down within 30 minutes of the shooting. The neighborhood is located in unincorporated Adams County, one block east and south of Thornton’s southern municipal boundary.

It remained that way until late the afternoon of Jan. 25, with crime-scene tape and police vehicles blocking both sides of the 8700 block of Edison, Desoto and Dawson street. Police kept the middle of the block of Dawson Street isolated until they released the scene on Jan. 26.

Schools closed

Mapleton Public Schools closed 11 area schools on Jan. 25 due to police actions while Adams County 12 Five Star Schools closed five of their schools for the day. All schools reopened on Jan. 26 and classes resumed.

The Adams County Sheriff’s Office set up a public tip line, 720 322-1313, to collect information about the shooting.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper ordered flags flown at half-staff in Gumm’s honor on Jan. 25.

At the Adams County Sheriff’s Office substation at 72nd and Colorado Boulevard, mourners and well-wishers brought food and water for deputies and built a makeshift memorial to honor Gumm.

Donated flowers, stuffed animals, balloons and candles were later moved to decorate a sheriff’s department vehicle near the site. Families and mourners continued to come to the site over the weekend.

That outpouring was recognized by Gumm’s wife, parents and siblings. The family issued a letter Jan. 26 thanking the community for their support.

“We have truly been amazed by the generous nature of the community,” the family said in their letter. “Our hearts are warmed by the display of compassion from complete strangers who stood, and continue to stand, alongside our family.”

McIntosh said his office had created a link off of the sheriff office’s web page ( to provide information about Gumm, the shooting, donations in his honor and upcoming memorial services.

McIntosh said the department has been working with the family to find a good venue for a memorial service.

The funeral itself has been scheduled for 11 a.m. in Lafayette’s Flatirons Community Church. That’s a non-denominational church with an auditorium that seats up to 3,000 people.

He noted that Colorado’s law enforcement community had been through a similar experience within the past month when Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Zackari Parrish was shot to death by a suspect on New Year’s Eve. His Jan. 5 funeral drew more than 5,000 mourners, and McIntosh said he expected a similar response for Gumm.

“It takes a huge venue and a lot of logistics to put it together,” McIntosh said.

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County purchases Sandstone Ranch for $18.75 million

In a move that surprised Douglas County’s own open space director, the county in January spent $18.75 million to acquire one of the most coveted swaths of ranch land within its boundaries, the historic Sandstone Ranch, for the purpose of preserving the land as open space.

The county closed on its purchase of the ranch, which has been in operation since the 1870s, from AR Sandstone LLC, a Texas-based company, on Jan. 18.

The 2,038-acre property borders Pike National Forest and the Front Range foothills west of Larkspur. The landscape boasts red rock formations, a forested canyon and sprawling meadows roamed by the ranch’s cattle herd and horses.

Officials said acquiring the land is a big win in terms of preserving the county’s agricultural heritage and natural resources.

“We recognize that the Sandstone Ranch acquisition is so much more than just the preservation of 2,038 acres,” said Douglas County Commissioner Roger Partridge in an emailed statement. “It is the preservation of the county’s history, heritage, wildlife habitat, and other natural resources — a quality-of-life investment for present and future generations.”

Nearly developed

The move by the county puts to rest development that could have occurred on the property.

At one time, the ranch was slated to become a small but bustling community. The county approved an application in 2008 from a developer with plans to divide the ranch into more than 100 lots for housing construction and equestrian facilities.

“They were talking about lakes with boat ramps and a community center and a community garden,” said Douglas County’s director of open space, Cheryl Matthews.

The project never came to fruition and the land remained largely undeveloped. The approximate 20 structures on the property are either historic — think old-fashioned red barns with outhouses — or used for the ranching operation, such as a cabin for the ranch manager to live on-site.

“It didn’t fit for development,” Partridge said. “To supply it, it would be ground basin water for a large part. We don’t have a transportation network down there.”

Although the 2008 development never panned out, the property was still being marketed to developers and private landowners before the county purchased it this year — and it was being marketed at a higher asking price of $27.6 million.

Matthews remembers the exact date, Oct. 25, when she saw the ranch listed at the reduced price of $18.75 million. She immediately sent the listing to county manager Doug DeBord, mostly as a joke, she said. Matthews didn’t expect the county would consider purchasing the land.

“It would just be the largest acquisition that we’ve ever undertaken,” she said of the open space department. “And then (DeBord) came back and said, `I’m not kidding. I think we should do it.’”

In previous open space studies, the county had identified preserving Sandstone Ranch as a high-priority item.

The county called a special business meeting on Dec. 27 to approve pursuing the purchase. The county initially offered to purchase the ranch for less than the asking price, but a bidding war brought the amount up until the county agreed to meet the $18.75 million list price.

Approximately $9.25 million of the cost will be covered by the county’s general fund and open space fund — tax revenue legally dedicated to protecting open space. The county is pursuing $3.5 million in Great Outdoors Colorado grants and plans to accept $6 million from the Chatfield Reservoir Mitigation Company to cover the remaining balance of the sale.

The county’s voter-approved open space fund began collecting tax revenue in 1995 and will sunset in 2023. It generates an average of $10 million to $11 million a year.

Forming a plan

In speaking with Colorado Community Media, Partridge said commissioners believed buying the land would be in line with what residents want, citing community survey results and the popularity of county open space.

Use of Douglas County open space trails grew by 30 percent from 2016 to 2017, reaching 568,000 users, Matthews said.

Castle Rock resident Inger Hiller said she’s glad to see the county will preserve Sandstone Ranch as open space.

“I am so excited as a resident,” she said. “It will be utilized for generations to come.”

She also believes the acquisition was a smart business move. Open space, she said, is an economic booster for the county.

Hiller leads a Castle Rock hiking group that sometimes draws members from outside the county. The area’s ample open space is what attracts them to begin with, she said, and those non-residents in turn spend money locally when the group gets drinks or food together.

“That’s our brand,” she said of Douglas County. “The open spaces in general are a money driver for the county.”

Mostly, Hiller said, she is eager to explore Sandstone Ranch.

Although the county will be opening Sandstone Ranch to the public, that likely won’t be until next year. Officials will spend most of 2018 forming a master plan for the property before the county allows visitors on site. The process includes soliciting public input and getting approval from commissioners to implement the final version.

Public comment at the Dec. 27 special meeting was almost entirely in favor of the acquisition, although some residents from neighboring subdivisions worried placing the public entrance to the ranch too near the Perry Park subdivision entrance could create traffic issues once it opens to the public. Matthews said the master plan will identify the best location for an entrance.

“It’s a blank sheet at this point in time. We’re looking at all different kinds of public use,” Matthews said.

Officials do have a rough vision of what the master plan will look like.

The county already knows it will limit public access on Sandstone Ranch to “non-motorized use,” meaning visitors can strap on their hiking boots or gear up their mountain bike but will have to leave rigs like the ATV at home.

The master plan will likely approve continuing the ranching operation, maintenance for the historical structures, a forest management plan and educational programming.

‘What Douglas County use to be’

To prepare for the master plan, officials are starting to evaluate the property.

On Jan. 23, Douglas County land management specialist Michael Butterfield drove his ranger truck across snow-covered Sandstone Ranch grounds, past the cattle herd, high up over lookout points and into the forested canyon on the property.

He was still getting acquainted with the ranch. There is a lot to take in, he said.

So far, Butterfield had determined the land is unique from the rest of Douglas County’s open space. The sheer size of the ranch stands out, he said, along with the number of structures on the property.

As a county employee, he saw the ranch, in part, as work. They’ll need to manage the forest for pests and wildfire hazards, and decide if cabins are suitable to rent and if they’ll need to install trails in addition to gravel roads already there.

As a resident raised on a ranch in western Douglas County, however, Butterfield also saw a glimpse of the old Douglas County, before the state’s population boom and Douglas County grew more urban.

“This is really a remnant,” he said, “of what Douglas County use to be.”

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Castle Rock gives green light to accessory dwelling units

There’s good news for fans of the tiny house movement living in Castle Rock. Or, anyone looking to turn that old garage into a living space.

Town council in January approved an ordinance that will allow one “accessory dwelling unit” to a residential lot, with a footprint of up to 800 square feet on its ground level.

Accessory dwelling units are secondary, small dwellings on the same grounds as a single-family home often referred to as a “nanny unit” or “mother-in-law unit.” That could include new construction, like building a tiny house in the back yard, or converting structures like a garage or basement into rentable living quarters.

“Many of them will be placed above a garage, most of them will be placed in a basement,” said the town’s director of development Bill Detweiler during the Jan. 16 council meeting.

In the Dec. 5 town council meeting, where council approved the first reading of the new ordinance, Detweiler said staff expected most accessory dwellings would be placed in existing structures because many of the town’s residential areas are planned communities, like The Meadows, that are “not necessarily set up for detached units.”

Any accessory dwellings, detached structures or not, would still need to comply with zoning regulations such as building height restrictions, and rules set by homeowners’ associations, which could ban them altogether.

New construction would need to undergo special review by the planning commission and ultimately come before the town council.

The ordinance also stipulates the accessory dwelling and the primary residence can’t be rented to two different people — the property owner must live in one and rent the other, or, rent the entire lot to one individual.

That requirement was subject to brief debate on council, with Councilmember Jason Bower at first calling it an “overreach” of property rights in the Dec. 5 meeting. Councilmember George Teal, however, said it would keep the ordinance in line with the town’s “family-oriented” lifestyle.

The ordinance clarifies other rules and regulations for installing an accessory dwelling, such as that the unit should fit the look and feel of its neighborhood, and the number of pets allowed applies to the entire lot, not each residence on the property. RVs and campers do not qualify as accessory dwellings.

Detweiler said town staff and council began researching the issue after residents, many from the historic Craig and Gould neighborhood, asked about changing town code to allow accessory dwellings.

Craig and Gould resident Lucia McConnell was excited by council’s decision. McConnell’s historic home comes with a garden shed original to the property and a garage she uses as a workspace. She’ll consider converting the garage into an accessory dwelling, she said. She also believes the new town rules will help fill a gap in the housing market by offering affordable housing options to students, young couples or other relatives of property owners.

“I think,” she said, “there’s a real market for it.”

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Five things to know about the Pine Canyon annexation

Castle Rock is reviewing the latest version of an annexation and zoning proposal for a 540-acre property located near Rock Park and Douglas County High School. The town first received an annexation application for Pine Canyon in 2013. In November, it received the ninth revision of the application.

Here are five things to know about the development proposal and its path toward possible annexation into Castle Rock.

A project timeline

The Pine Canyon annexation dates back more than a decade, when developers submitted the first sketch plans for the property to Castle Rock. The town didn’t receive a formal annexation and zoning application until 2013.

“The town does not ask property owners to annex. The property owners initiate those actions,” Tara Vargish said, Castle Rock’s assistant development services director. “Once they made an application to the town we are required to give them due process.”

Between then and now there have been numerous changes to the proposal. Staff could request the developer make more changes to the plan after reviewing the newest version. Or, staff could forward the application on to the next phase in the approval process.

What’s proposed

Pine Canyon sits near Douglas County High School between Scott Boulevard and Founders Parkway and on both the east and west side of Interstate 25 in unincorporated Douglas County.

The developer hopes to annex Pine Canyon into Castle Rock and change the property’s zoning from Agriculture One to zoning that would allow a mixture of single-family and multi-family housing, according to town documents.

The current zoning allows single-family homes on lots ranging from two to 35 acres, public and private schools and places of worship up to 350 seats. Changing the zoning could allow developers to create a more urban area than what the current zoning allows, Vargish said. By annexing, Pine Canyon would also have access to town utilities and services, although it would be responsible for building its own infrastructure.

What’s changed

The key differences between earlier plans and the latest resubmittal are in the project’s density, Vargish said. In its original application, developers proposed building 1,550 residential dwellings, keeping 128 acres of the land as open space and proposed more than double the square footage of commercial, retail and industrial development than what’s proposed now.

The latest resubmittal proposes building up to 1,320 dwellings, both single and multi-family, and keeping 133 acres of open space. The proposal also includes 815,000 square feet of non-residential commercial development, and 57 acres would be reserved for “public use,” such as schools or parks.

A long process

In Pine Canyon’s case, it’s not unusual for the vetting process to be a years-long endeavor, Vargish said. There isn’t an average timeline for how long it takes for an application to be approved or denied. Vargish explained the Pine Canyon application is complex because the property is so large.

Every change requested by the town impacts the numerous studies associated with the project, such as traffic studies or utility plans. Each needs to be reassessed with every resubmittal of the application, and that means people from several town departments getting involved.

“There’s just a lot of elements and a lot of different people who look at all the different aspects of that change,” she said. “We’re not ready yet to schedule Pine Canyon for public hearing.”

The path toward annexation

Once town staff and the developers are both happy with the proposal and all its revisions, Vargish said, the application would be turned over to the town’s planning commission. The planning commission would then forward it to the town council with a recommendation to either approve or deny the application. Town council would review the application twice before officially deciding the issue.

The town averages about 2,000 new residents each year based on building permit counts, Vargish said, and she doesn’t expect that pace of growth would immediately change should the town council approve annexing Pine Canyon.

“It would be quite some time,” she said, “before there was a lot available in this development.”

There will be an open house for this project on Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. at Castle Rock Town Hall, 100 N. Wilcox St.

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Series: Time to talk about mental illness

It’s time to talk: Don’t we all know someone who is struggling with some form of mental illness or mental health challenge?

Colorado Community Media has launched a series of articles and forums, entitled “Time to Talk,” on the state of mental health, specifically in Douglas County, but applying to all of us, to discuss the need to bring the issue of mental illness into everyday conversation.

According to national mental health organizations, one in five adults in the U.S. — and one in five youths between 13 and 18 years old — experience a mental illness.

Throughout the state and nation, campaigns are underway to eliminate the stigma of shame and guilt associated with mental illness and encourage a conversation that puts the issue into the light, without judgment, with compassion and understanding. In the hopes of furthering that movement, Colorado Community Media will spend much of this year exploring how the state of mental health affects our Douglas County communities, which despite their general affluence are not immune from the societal stresses of high expectations, peer pressure and social media, among other factors that influence state of mind.

Check back on this page periodically. We will link to all of our stories in the series, as well as giving notice about our upcoming public forum events and more. 

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Patrol unit named after fallen Douglas County deputy

On Jan. 24, Douglas County Deputy Zack Parrish’s patrol vehicle went back into service for the first time since the Dec. 31 shooting that took his life. The vehicle is different — small but powerful details have been added to forever remember the fallen deputy.

Parrish, 29, was responding to a domestic dispute at a residence in the Copper Canyon Apartments, 3380 E. County Line Road, in Highlands Ranch, the morning of Dec. 31 when he was shot and killed. Four other law enforcements were wounded in what Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock called “an ambush-type of attack.”

The vehicle that belonged to Parrish, a husband and father of two young girls, now serves as a memorial of him. The license plate is marked with a small gold sheriff’s badge and a thin blue line running through the word “Parrish.”

The sheriff’s office announced on Facebook that Parrish’s unit, 1723, has officially been changed to unit ZPIII, a nickname Parrish was given by his family, which stands for Zach Parrish the third. The new name has been placed on the sides and back of the vehicle.

“Sheriff Tony Spurlock has made ZPIII available for deputies on all shifts to memorialize Zack and his service to the Sheriff’s Office and our community,” the sheriff’s office posted, along with photos of the vehicle, on Facebook.

Community members applauded the sheriff’s office for honoring Parrish. The Facebook post was shared about 4,400 times in two days.

“Beautiful remembrance,” one user commented.

“This is well-considered and a splendid way to memorialize the life of a community servant who gave his all. Well done, Sheriff Spurlock,” another user said.

“How wonderful,” one user wrote. “You will always be remembered ZPIII.”

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Help plan Castle Rock’s next park; submit feedback online or attend an open house

In a thriving community, a park is more than just a place. It’s where memories are created and family time is enjoyed. The Town knows how important these amenities are, and is working on the next neighborhood park. Now, residents can help. Submit feedback on the initial design concepts online or attend an open house Monday, Feb. 5.

Town Council unanimously agreed on the location of the next neighborhood park in October. Now, the Town is working with a consultant on design concepts and is seeking input.

The park – Meadows F18 Lot 2 – will be located along Low Meadows Boulevard next to Aspen View Academy. Working with a $2 million budget, several initial design concepts have been developed and are online. Amenities could include playground areas, pavilions, game courts, soccer fields and natural areas. Currently, there are three design concepts to choose from.

Attend an open house to learn more about these concepts, submit feedback and get your questions answered – 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 5 at the Aspen View Academy Cafeteria, 2131 Low Meadow Blvd. The design consultant, Norris Design, will also be there to discuss the design concepts and answer questions. Can’t make the open house? The feedback form is located online. Find more information including the design concepts and feedback form at

Construction is expected to begin this spring. However, a final construction contract will need to be approved by Town Council. A public meeting will be held in March to present a final design concept to residents. More details about that public meeting will be coming soon.

Stay up-to-date on the future park’s progress and sign up for email updates at

Get Town news straight to your inbox. Sign up online at, or follow the Town on Facebook (, Twitter (@CRgov), YouTube (@CRgov) and LinkedIn (search Town of Castle Rock).

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Suspect in fatal shooting of deputy previously convicted of robbery

Staff report

The suspect in the fatal shooting of Adams County Deputy Heath Gumm has been identified by authorities as Dreion Martise Dearing.

Dearing, 22, is facing charges of first-degree murder of a police officer, assault and burglary. He was being held in the Adams County jail without bond. Authorities had not released a photo of Dearing as of the afternoon of Jan. 26, citing the ongoing investigation.

“There are still witnesses that need to be talked to, and we want to make sure we get their version of the events as they know them, not as something they saw on TV or read in the newspaper,” District Attorney Dave Young after the Jan. 26 advisement hearing.

Dearing was convicted of robbery in 2014 and sentenced to two years in a youth-corrections program.

As a teen, Dearing attended Ridge View Academy, a charter school in Watkins for at-risk youths. He competed in football and track and field.

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‘The Rock’ sends well wishes to injured deputy

Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Pelle, one of the four officers injured in the New Year’s Eve shooting that killed Deputy Zackari Parrish, got a special shout out from a movie star. In a video, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson offered words of encouragement as Pelle works toward recovery.

“I wanted to wish you well,” Johnson said in the video, adding he’d followed Pelle’s story. “I heard about the scenario you went through. I heard about your loss.”

Pelle sent a Tweet to Johnson on Jan. 24 after seeing the video to thank him for the message, saying he was “a giant fan.”

“Grateful you’re with us to receive this message. Stay strong and let’s get you up and at em very soon,” Johnson Tweeted back to Pelle, offering his condolences for the loss of Parrish.

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