The day after Memorial Day, Cortez police officers honored a fallen comrade in a small ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of Dale Claxton’s death.
Claxton died May 29, 1998, in a shootout after a police chase involving three suspects in a stolen vehicle on County Road 27. He was the last Cortez police officer to be killed in the line of duty.
On Tuesday, dozens of active and retired members of law enforcement agencies in Montezuma County gathered in front of the Cortez Police Department to hang a blue wreath on the department’s monument to fallen officers and to share memories of Claxton.
Patrol Lt. Andy Brock told how Claxton rented a hotel room with his own money for a victim of domestic violence, and how he threw a belligerent suspect several feet into the air to subdue him.
“He was as nice as could be, but had the ability to be serious,” Brock said. “Dale was a good guy.”
Brock and Police Chief Roy Lane hung the wreath, paid for by the city, and thanked the few remaining members of the department who knew Claxton for coming. One of those officers, Sgt. Rex Brinkerhoff, had gone the previous week to the bridge where Claxton died to repair and redecorate a sign in his honor. STR Custom Coating donated paint and other materials to improve the sign.
Brinkerhoff advised younger officers in the crowd to remember Claxton’s legacy, even if they hadn’t served with him.
“Be safe out there,” he said. “Watch your back. Look out for each other. That’s what it’s all about.”
Claxton was one of eight Cortez police personnel who have been killed in the line of duty. He had been working for the department about three years at the time of his death.