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Fallen Heroes 

Deputy Samuel Kent Brownlee - EOW 11/23/2010

Sam Brownlee

Deputy Sam Brownlee, 43, died in the line of duty on November 23, 2010; Deputy Brownlee was shot and killed while struggling with a gang member, following a high-speed pursuit. At 9:37 a.m., it was reported to the Fort Morgan Police Department that the suspect had stolen his girlfriend’s car. The suspect was reported to be suicidal due to previous statements that he would rather die than go back to prison. At 10:29 a.m., the stolen car was spotted by a Wiggins Police Officer, who began to pursue to suspect. The suspect was driving in excess of 100 miles per hour. Deputy Brownlee and Deputy Terry Reed joined the pursuit near the Kuner Feedlot, just east of Kersey, after unsuccessfully attempting to deploy stop sticks. Several other deputies and officers joined the pursuit as it entered into Greeley.

The pursuit continued through Greeley and ended in Evans when the car stopped in the 3200 block of Coyote Lane at 10:58 a.m. Attempting to take the suspect into custody, Deputy Reed and Deputy Donnie Patch, along with two Evans Police Officers, removed the suspect from the car and a physical struggle ensued; Deputy Brownlee, having lost sight of the suspect vehicle during the pursuit, joined the struggle upon arriving where the pursuit had culminated. During the effort to get the suspect into custody, the deputies and suspect ended up on the ground. As the struggle continued, the suspect gained control of Deputy Brownlee’s sidearm and fired three rounds;
63 seconds after he arrived on scene, Deputy Brownlee suffered the gunshot wounds that ended his life.

As Deputy Patch attempted to disarm the suspect, one of the Evans Officers fired three rounds at close range, incapacitating the suspect. Deputies Reed and Patch immediately began life-saving efforts on Deputy Brownlee, while other arriving officers tended to the suspect. Deputy Brownlee was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. Deputy Brownlee was hit by all three of the rounds that the suspect fired; one struck him in the hand, one embedded in his vest, and one entered his head. The suspect also died from his wounds after being transported the hospital.

Samuel Kent Brownlee died in the line of duty serving the community he loved. He was born in Denver on September 17, 1967. He was raised by parents, Kent and Nelda Brownlee, in Greeley. He graduated from Greeley Central High School in 1986. Sam attended the Weld County Post Academy and worked for the Gilcrest and Ault Police Departments before beginning his employment at the Weld County Sheriff’s Office in 2005. He served as a Field Training Officer, a Taser Instructor, and a Firearms Instructor. Sam had two sons, Tanner and Chase, from a previous marriage; in June 2009, he married Heather and also became a stepfather to Tyler and Maddie. Sam was a proud member of the Blue Knights and the Harley Owners Group. He enjoyed the summer, so he could camp, fish, hike, and ride his Harley. He loved spending time with his wife and children.

Sources: Weld County Sheriff’s Office After Action Report; 19th Judicial District, District Attorney’s decision letter; Greeley Tribune obituary for Sam Brownlee.

Deputy Earl Bucher - EOW 12/31/1940

Earl Bucher

Deputy Earl Bucher, 45, was shot and killed on December 31, 1940 when he responded to a domestic dispute at a house, or beet shack, 6 miles south of Elwell. The call came in from David Sipes, 16, stepson of Fred Bernhardt, 58. Sipes stated that his mother and step-father got in a fight over him and that his step-father, Bernhardt, ordered him out of the house. Sipes stated that, as he ran away, Bernhardt fired the shotgun at him. He went to the Joe King residence across the road and they called the sheriff's office in Greeley. Deputies Earl Bucher and Guy McGinnis drove into the driveway of the house about noon and both exited the patrol car. Bucher was driving and was closer to the house when he stopped the car. He had taken just a few steps when Bernhardt stuck a double barreled shotgun out the door and, without saying a word, fired once striking Deputy Bucher in the head killing him instantly. Deputy McGinnis had just walked around the front of the car when he saw Bucher shot. He ducked and the second shot went over his head. McGinnis jumped in the car and went to get help as he figured that Bernhardt would take a moment or so to reload the shotgun and he was still in the house.

By 12:30 Weld County Sheriff Gus Anderson had assembled a posse of at least a dozen officers which grew to include about a dozen additional men before the situation was over. The posse split into three groups then approached through the fields around the ‘shack' and the nearby smaller shanty. After surrounding the buildings, they moved in and opened fire on the house. They posse stopped firing when Bernhardt came out of the house as they thought he might be giving up, however he entered the shanty so the firing resumed. At least 20 tear gas shells and gas grenades were fired into the windows of both buildings, along with several hundred rounds from rifles and machine guns. The posse gained access to the buildings at 1:30, and found Bernhardt dead in the shanty, from wounds to the chest and stomach. Helen Sipes Bernhardt was found dead in the kitchen of the house. She had been shot with the shotgun outside, and her body dragged back into, the house before the initial arrival of the deputies. Deputy Bucher was on the ground, at the left front corner of the house, where he had fallen after being shot. Bernhardt was wearing Bucher's badge on his overalls, which he had ripped off Bucher's chest after killing him. He also had Deputy Bucher's blackjack in his pocket. Bucher's gun was on the kitchen table along with a .22 rifle, while the double barreled shotgun lay on the floor.

The newspaper listed the names of the following officers that were involved in the posse at the Bernhardt house in addition to Sheriff Anderson and Deputy McGinnis. They included Officer Ed Lott, Deputy Warren Vose, Greeley Chief C. C. Hunter & Officer Joe Kem, Larimer County Sheriff Ted Schaeffer & Deputy Roy Barger, Captain Frank Burger and Patrolmen Gordon Lockett , M. B. McKinney, Mart Conway & Roy Calhoun of the Courtesy Patrol and Longmont Chief Orville Barr. Several local farmers were also listed as being in the posse. Denver PD had sent a crew of 13 officers with ‘tear gas bombs, rifles, and tommy guns, however it seems they arrived after it was over.

The Bernhardt family had moved to this house just two months earlier from Ault. Bernhardt had taken a ‘beet contract' on the Nygren place. Helen Sipes, 45, had married Fred Bernhardt two years earlier. In addition to David, she had four other children; Mrs. Hannah Schwartz (Keenesburg), Irene Sipes (Denver), Ruben Sipes, 17 and Delores Sipes, 9. Ruben and Delores were at the Pearl Hollow School, two miles from the home, when this occurred.

Deputy Earl J. Bucher resided at 1809 10th Ave. in Greeley. He was born in Eldora, Iowa on September 19, 1895 but grew up in Greeley, attended Greeley schools and studied at Colorado State College before enlisting in the World War, serving in the 148th Field Artillery, Battery A. He was a past commander of Legion and a past exalted ruler of Elks. Deputy Bucher had been married for 20 years and was survived by his wife Helen Davis Bucher, 43, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. G. L. Bucher of Greeley, brother, Glen (Greeley) and sister, Mrs. Neva McKinley (Mesa, Colorado). Interment was at Linn Grove Cemetery.
Elwell, CO was located 2 miles west of Johnstown, at what today is the intersection of Colorado Highway 60 and Road 13. The location where Deputy Bucher was killed was 8 ½ miles Southwest of Johnstown or just south of the current Road 36 and Road 13.

Sources: June 2015

Weld County Sheriff's Office

Greeley Daily Tribune: Dec 31, 1940, Jan 1 & 2, 1941

U. S. Census - Weld County, 1940 et al.