Arvada police Officer Gordon Beesley remembered as steady, kind presence

When Emily Beck needed help with her son, she called Arvada police officer Officer Gordon Beesley.

Her 13-year-old son, Max, attends Oberon Middle School and loved spending time in Beesley’s office, where the school resource officer would show Max how to play classic rock on an old record player. Max, who has autism, looked forward to spending time with Beesley.

Beesley was an important male role model for Max, said Beck, who is a single mom. As Max became a teen, Beck invited Beesley to their home to talk to Max about how to be a respectful and kind man. She trusted Beesley to know how to de-escalate Max should he become agitated.

“As a single mom, you need a village,” Beck said. “He was a willing and fantastic member of my village. And I’m sure he was for many others.”

Beesley died Monday while responding to a shooting in Olde Town Arvada. Beesley, a 19-year veteran of the Arvada Police Department, spent most of the year working as a school resource officer at Oberon Middle School, Lincoln Academy and Excel Academy Charter School, but returned to patrol work during the summer holidays. Two others, including the suspect, also died in the shooting Monday, police have said.

“Gordon was a true gentleman and a kind soul,” Arvada police Chief Link Strate said at a news conference Tuesday. “He always had a smile on his face and everyone felt better after a conversation with Gordon.”

Before working in the schools, Beesley served as a patrol officer and in the motorcycle traffic unit. He joined the department in 2002, Strate said. Beesley enjoyed skiing, camping and playing the drums, according to his biography on the city website.

Dozens of students, teachers and friends on Tuesday left flowers and cards on Beesley’s patrol car parked outside Arvada City Hall, where flags were lowered to half staff.

Beesley was a patient, calming presence in the schools, according to those who knew him. He spoke softly and was unflappable.

“He knew something about every one of his students,” said Greg Strong, whose daughter attends Oberon. “He seemed to have an ability to find the kids who needed help the most.”

Skyla Boes said she sometimes spoke with Beesley when she’d get in trouble at school. She respected him because he showed respect to her.

“He understood from a kid’s point of view,” she said. “He’d rather help you than get you in trouble.”

Beesley’s example made former Oberon student Colton Howard think about becoming a school resource officer. After a bullying incident, Howard left a note in Beesley’s “tip box” outside the library to ask for help. Beesley addressed the incident, Howard said, and they met several times after to talk. Those meetings showed Beesley cared.

“If it wasn’t for Beesley during middle school — when I struggled with self-confidence and bullying — I’m not sure what I would have done,” said Howard, now a student at Colorado State University.

Arvada city officials named Beesley employee of the year in 2015 for the officer’s dedication to a student at Oberon. Beesley rode his bike to school with the boy multiple times a week because the boy’s mom was worried about him going alone. The city planted an oak tree in his honor at David Lane Park, which was on the route the two took to school.

Jeffco Public Schools declined a request to interview staff about Beesley but said in a statement he was a cherished member of the school district where he worked for more than a decade.

“He was valued by all who knew him including school staff and students, touching lives and always honoring others,” the district said in its statement. “We are thinking of his family, friends and fellow officers, and honor him for his dedication to our students, schools and district.”

The shooting shook those who live in Arvada, many of whom described it as a large community with a small-town feel.

The Arvada Police Department said any donations to Beesley’s family should be directed to the Colorado Fallen Hero Foundation. Flowers, cards and memorials can be left at his patrol car and his police bike at Arvada City Hall.

Many of the posters on his car featured children’s handwriting. His students left notes to his memory and thanked him for always taking time to listen.

“We’ll miss you on the crosswalk,” one student scrawled.

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