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Fallen Heros 

Deputy Earl Bucher - EOW 12/31/1940


Earl BucherDeputy 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.

Deputy Samuel Kent Brownlee - EOW 11/23/2010

Sam BrownleeDeputy Sam Brownlee was shot and killed while attempting to capture a suspect following a high-speed chase.

A deputy from neighboring Morgan County and a Wiggins police officer attempted to stop the suspect after identifying the suspect's vehicle in relation to an earlier domestic violence case. The suspect refused to yield and led officers from multiple agencies on a high-speed chase across Morgan and Weld counties.

The pursuit at times exceeded 100 miles per hour before stop sticks were deployed, successfully disabling the vehicle in a residential area of Evans. The suspect attempted an escape and a struggle ensued between the suspect, Deputy Brownlee, and several officers. The suspect was able to gain Deputy Brownlee's service weapon and shot Deputy Brownlee three times. The suspect was shot by other officers at the scene and died later at a nearby medical center.

Deputy Brownlee had served with the Weld County Sheriff's Office for five years. He is survived by his wife, two children, and two stepchildren.