COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Faith led Garrett Swasey to a career in public service and pastoral care, and duty led him to a Planned Parenthood clinic where he was gunned down.
The 44-year-old Swasey was the first of three victims to be identified in the shootings Friday at the clinic.
Married with two children, Swasey worked as a police officer at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. He was there when he was called to assist with an active shooter at the nearby clinic.
Swasey was originally from Melrose, Massachusetts, where Police Chief Michael Lyle said he dedicated much of his life to helping others.
He moved to Colorado in the 1980s to pursue competitive figure skating, his father told the Boston Globe. He became a police officer six years ago, around the time his daughter was born, 73-year-old David Swasey said.
“He was a great dad,” Swasey told the newspaper. “I mean, a super dad. Everybody in the police department loved him. Anybody who ever met him loved him. He was a great guy, a great person.”
As a skater, Garrett Swasey won a national championship in the junior ranks and competed in the U.S. Championships at least three times, his father said.
Swasey was a co-pastor at Hope Chapel, an evangelical church in Colorado Springs.
He and his wife, Rachel, began attending in 2001, according to a bio on the church’s website. “As they raise their son, Elijah, and daughter, Faith, they view the members of the church as their family,” the bio reads.
“Here’s a guy who worked full time as a police officer, and then gave a great amount of time to his local church and didn’t get a dime for it,” the Rev. Scott Dontanville, a co-pastor who knew Swasey for 15 years, told The New York Times.
Dontanville told the Globe that he and Swasey, a fan of the New England Patriots, often would tease each other about football since Dontanville roots for the Denver Broncos.
“That’s something he would always give us trouble for on Sunday morning,” he told the newspaper. “He was an awesome man. … Great father, great husband, good friend — caring, compassionate.”
President Barack Obama praised Swasey in a statement released by the White House: “May God bless Officer Garrett Swasey and the Americans he tried to save — and may He grant the rest of us the courage to do the same thing.”
Little was known about the other two people who were killed or the nine who were wounded. Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains released a statement that indicated none of the other victims worked at the clinic.
Colorado Springs Fire Department Chief Chris Riley visited four injured officers Friday night. All had been shot but were talking and expected to recover, he said.
“Their spirits are good,” Riley said after visiting them. “They’re obviously in pain. But they’re alive and talking to us. They’re heroes. Absolute heroes.”
Two vigils were planned Saturday in Colorado Springs for Swasey and the other victims. Moments of silence were planned in honor of Swasey before the men’s and women’s basketball games at UCCS.