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Fallen Heroes 

Deputy Samuel Kent Brownlee - EOW 11/23/2010

Sam Brownlee

Weld County Sheriff's Office Deputy Sam Brownlee, 43, died in the line of duty on Nov. 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 mph. 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 Greeley city limits.

The pursuit continued through Greeley and ended in Evans when at 10:58 a.m. the car stopped in the 3200 block of Coyote Lane. Deputy Reed and Deputy Donnie Patch, along with two Evans police officers, attempted to take the suspect into custody by removing him from the car. A physical struggle ensued. Deputy Brownlee, having lost sight of the suspect vehicle during the pursuit, joined the struggle upon arriving at the scene in Evans. During the effort to get the suspect into custody, the deputies and suspect ended up on the ground. Exactly 63 seconds after Brownlee arrived at the scene, the suspect gained control of his sidearm and fired three rounds.  

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. 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.

Deputy Brownlee was born in Denver on Sept. 17, 1967. He was raised by parents, Kent and Nelda Brownlee, in Greeley. He graduated from Greeley Central High School in 1986 before attending the Weld County Post Academy. Brownlee served the Gilcrest and Ault police departments before beginning his employment in 2005 at the Weld County Sheriff’s Office. 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. Brownlee was a proud member of the Blue Knights and the Harley Owners Group. He enjoyed the summer most when he could camp, fish, hike and ride his Harley. He loved spending time with his wife and children.

Samuel Kent Brownlee died in the line of duty serving the community he loved.

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 Dec. 31, 1940, when he responded to a domestic dispute at a house, or beet shack, six miles south of Elwell. The call came in from David Sipes, 16, stepson of Fred Bernhardt, 58. Sipes said that his mother and step-father got into a fight over him and that his step-father ordered him out of the house. Sipes told law enforcement that as he ran away, Bernhardt fired a shotgun at him. He went to the Joe King residence across the road and called the sheriff's office in Greeley.

Deputies Earl Bucher and Guy McGinnis responded to the call, driving into the driveway of the house about noon. Bucher, who was driving, was closer to the house when both deputies exited their patrol car. He had taken just a few steps when Bernhardt stuck a double barreled shotgun out the door and, without warning, fired once striking Deputy Bucher in the head. He was killed instantly.

Deputy McGinnis ducked to avoid a second round of shotgun fire that sailed over his head. He jumped into the driver's seat of the car and raced back to the sheriff's office for help.

By 12:30 p.m., Weld County Sheriff Gus Anderson had assembled a posse of at least a dozen officers. The size of the posse doubled when it was  joined by at least another dozen armed men. The posse split into three groups, approaching the beet shack and a smaller shanty through a nearby field. After surrounding the buildings, the posse moved in and opened fire on the house. The posse stopped firing briefly when Bernhardt came out of the shack. The members of the posse assumed he was giving up the fight, but the firing resumed when Bernhardt made a B-Line for the shanty. 

By the time the incident was over, at least 20 tear gas shells and gas grenades had been 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 p.m., and found Bernhardt dead in the shanty from gunshot wounds to the chest and stomach. He was wearing Bucher's badge on his overalls, which he had taken from the deputy after killing him. He also had Bucher's blackjack in his pocket. Bucher's duty weapon and a .22-caliber rifle were located on a kitchen table in the beet shack along with Bernhardt's shotgun, which was on the floor.

Helen Sipes Bernhardt also was found dead in the kitchen of the shack. Evidence showed she had been shot and killed with a shotgun outside of the shack. Her body was dragged back inside before deputies Bucher and McGinnis first arrived at the scene.

In addition to Sheriff Anderson and Deputy McGinnis, the following officers were named in the local newspaper as participating in the shootout: 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," but they arrived after the shootout was over.

The Bernhardt family had moved to the shack 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 the incident occurred.

Deputy Earl J. Bucher resided at 1809 10th Ave. in Greeley. He was born in Eldora, Iowa on Sept. 19, 1895, but grew up in Greeley, attending Greeley schools and studying at Colorado State College before enlisting in World War I, serving in the 148th Field Artillery, Battery A. He was a past commander of the American Legion and a past exalted ruler of the Benevolent and Protective Order 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). 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 Weld County Road 13. The location where Deputy Bucher was killed was 8 ½ miles Southwest of Johnstown, or just south of the current intersection of Weld roads 36 and 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.