It’s just utterly tragic. I’m just starting to read the tragic news of the shootings at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs. Information is still being gathered for the shooter, his motivations, and the victims.
One of the killed was a first responder – Officer Garrett Swasey, a six year veteran of the campus police force of Univ. of Colorado (Colorado Springs).
Let’s be honest: There’s been so much horrible news of police brutality throughout our country…news of police abusing their power and authority including and especially with their engagement with Black Americans. As some of you may know, I’ve been a vocal supporter of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Yet, if we’re not wise and discerning, we can make a similar kind of tragic mistake by making sweeping generalizations over the entire police force …. similar generalizations (aka profiling) that our black and brown community have been protesting over (and rightfully so). Couple of my friends who are in the police force have shared this very new reality and tension:
“Eugene, folks don’t see us as human beings any more. They just see the uniform and thus, public enemy #1. We begin each day with two strikes against us.”
The irony of these words are that they are eerily similar to the stories I hear from my black and brown friends…”two strikes against us.” These are indeed challenging and complex times….ones that require much prayer, courage, tenacity, and humility.
One easier-said-than-done way we can seek to remedy and fight against such broad stereotypes and generalizations is to choose to “see” each person. This is clearly complex in the face of enormous structural issues and yet, this is so critical for us as Christians because we believe that each person is created in the Imago Dei – the image of God.
Clearly, I did not personally know Office Garrett. Never knew him. Never heard of him. And only now starting to soak in various narratives about his life. He was only 44 – one year younger than me. I’m sure like all of us, he had his flaws and failures but in reading about his story, this I know: I wish I had known him.
Garrett wasn’t just a good police officer. In other words, he was more than his uniform but even his uniform had purpose that was informed by his character and faith. He was also the husband to his wife, Rachel, and father to their two children: Elijah and Faith. All that knew him speaks deeply of his courage and faith in Christ. In fact, he we was also a co-pastor of a local church in Colorado Springs called Hope Chapel.
“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,” said Scott Dontanville, a co-pastor who knew Officer Swasey for 15 years. “He did it because it was the thing that he felt he needed to do.” [source]
Garrett Swasey: Christ Follower, Son, Husband, Father, Pastor, and Police Officer.
I never had the privilege of meeting you but…We see you. We honor you. We lift your wife, kids, family, church, and all those that are grieving your passing in heart and prayers. It is an honor to call you a brother-in-Christ and fellow co-laborer of the Gospel. Thank you for your courage and faith. As many mourn and grieve, may their tears turn to a growing peace – knowing that you are united and at peace with our God: Father, Savior, and Spirit.