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Two Jeffco sheriff’s investigators “be walkin’!”
“We be walkin’!” is the slogan of Dee Patterson – known as Deputy Dee in the foothills — and Wendy Fehringer as they prepare to walk 25 miles in two days in February to support the C.O.P.S. Foundation.
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Help Dee Patterson and Wendy Fehringer raise $5,000 for the C.O.P.S. Foundation by donating before Jan. 18 at tinyurl.com/4tpwtcaj
“We be walkin’!” is the slogan of Dee Patterson — known as Deputy Dee in the foothills — and Wendy Fehringer as they prepare to walk 25 miles in two days in February to support the C.O.P.S. Foundation.
C.O.P.S. stands for Concerns of Police Survivors, and the organization provides support for families, friends and colleagues who have lost an officer in the line of duty.
According to the organization’s website, “C.O.P.S. was organized in 1984 with 110 individual members. Today, C.O.P.S. membership is over 65,000 survivors. Survivors include spouses, children, parents, siblings, significant others and co-workers of officers who have died in the line of duty.”
Patterson and Fehringer will be walking in COPSWalk Southwest Feb. 24-26, deciding this year to walk in honor of Dillon Vakoff, a 27-year-old Arvada police officer who was shot and killed responding to a disturbance on Sept. 11, 2022. Vakoff’s motto was “That others may live,” and Patterson said that stuck with her.
“I didn’t know Dillon, but I have kids slightly older than he was," she said. "My kids have a future, while Dillon doesn’t. That hit hard for me.”
While Patterson participated in the COPSWalk Southwest last year, she asked Fehringer, her friend and partner in the investigations unit for the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office, to join her this year.
“We live in a community that is so very supportive of law enforcement, and we have immediate resources,” Fehringer said. “Then there are the little agencies who don’t have as much support.”
That’s where the C.O.P.S. Foundation comes in. Support is ongoing for as long as survivors need it.
‘I’m living proof’
Lynn Mossbrucker, who lost her husband, called the C.O.P.S. Foundation a rare opportunity to connect with people who understand her loss. Her husband, Sgt. Timothy Mossbrucker, was shot and killed on April 28, 1995, as he pulled up to a shooting scene at a supermarket.
Timothy had served with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office for 17 years. At the time of his death, Lynn was pregnant. The couple had four sons and two daughters.
Although remarried — to another police officer — Lynn kept Mossbrucker as her last name.
Even though Timothy was taken from her, “I still have his name,” she explained, “and I will always have his name.”
Lynn’s family has taken advantage of camps and other programs the C.O.P.S. Foundation provides, and Lynn calls it a lifeline. She attended her first spouses’ retreat in 1998 and continues to go each year, noting that she met people at her first retreat who have become important friends.
“I still get a lot out of the retreats,” she said. “It’s a rare opportunity to connect with somebody who gets it, and I know I can call those people if I need to.”
Colorado has a local chapter of C.O.P.S., and Lynn was president for six years and vice president for two years. She can’t say enough about the importance of C.O.P.S. for those who have lost an officer in the line of duty.
“When you are having a bad time or it’s an anniversary or you miss him, you can’t just talk to people about that,” she said. “They don’t want to hear it, or they don’t know what to say. But if I say those things to my friends from C.O.P.S., you don’t have to explain it, and they won’t think I’m weird.
“I can tell you that if its purpose is to help the people left behind, I’m living proof that happens, and I have many friends who are the proof that that happens. It is much more crucial in the early years, but it remains important to me 27 years later.”
‘The experience changed me’
Patterson said she got involved in the COPSWalk after attending National Police Week a couple years ago.
“What drew me to (the C.O.P.S. Foundation) is what they do for families — counseling for kids, assistance to spouses, the list goes on and on,” Patterson said. “I was incredibly moved by it. The experience changed me.”
Both Patterson and Fehringer have been training by walking together on their lunch breaks and taking their dogs on long walks. They know they will be ready for the challenge.
Patterson said the great thing about the 25-mile walk is walkers go at their own pace, so participants get to talk about why they are involved. They hear about the service of police officers around the nation who lost their lives protecting others.
“Raising money for the C.O.P.S. Foundation is not about my department, it’s about officers like Dillon (Vakoff), and the families that have to go on,” Patterson explained. “That’s where it is for me. (Dillon) went to work because he wanted to make a difference. That’s what the C.O.P.S. Foundation is all about. Families have to go on.”
Patterson and Fehringer agree that it’s important to support the organization because it supports the surviving families and friends.
“We shouldn’t forget these people, their sacrifice and the families who made the sacrifice, too,” Patterson said.
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