Denver, CO

Council honors gay rights leader, cops who died of COVID

David Heitz

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Law enforcement and the LGBT community won’t break bread at the pride celebration this year. But representatives of both groups won accolades this Pride Week during the Denver City Council meeting.

Three individuals were given proclamations, all in death. Two compassionate deputies from the Denver Sheriff’s Department received honors after dying two weeks apart from COVID-19 this year. James “Jimmy” Herrera and Daniel “Duke” Trujillo both worked as guards at the Downtown Denver Detention Center. Both served their country in combat.

Both were known for their humane approach to law enforcement. “Deputy Herrera is remembered by his colleagues and within the community as a generous man who would help anyone in need,” the proclamation reads. “There were occasions that people were released from custody and didn't have any resources or a place to stay. Deputy Herrera, on multiple occasions, would give individuals money to buy a meal or a bus ticket. His co-workers recount a day when Denver Sheriff’s Department ran out of hotel vouchers and Deputy Herrera purchased a hotel room for the individual to avoid him sleeping in the winter cold.

“He is remembered for his heart of gold and kindness to everyone he met. He believed that everyone needs a helping hand from time to time and that we need to take care of each other.”

Recognized separately, not celebrating together

The organizers of the Denver gay pride festival said law enforcement is not welcome at the celebration this year. Festival officials are standing in solidarity with Black Lives Matter to raise awareness about police brutality.

Many people working in law enforcement are LGBT. The decision to shut out cops from the celebration hasn’t been without controversy.

Meanwhile, the proclamation recognizes Herrera and Trujillo both as natural leaders.

“Deputy Trujillo’s team at DSD remembers the strength within him that would rally them in times of adversity and buoy the spirits of those around him when things were challenging,” according to the proclamation. “He would not shy away from his responsibilities and would be the first to get involved in a difficult situation and find a swift resolution.”

Gay activist vocal when Colorado known as ‘hate state’

Also recognized by the council Monday as a spirited leader was Corky Blankenship, a Denver gay rights pioneer who died in February at age 76.

“Corky was passionate about making Denver a more inclusive city, fighting against the odds during a period of time when Colorado was known as the hate state to advance LGBTQ rights,” the proclamation reads. “Corky is remembered for his enthusiastic and joyful spirit both on the dance floor and within a beloved community that feels his absence profoundly and carries his memory with forward with love and pride.”

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best local newspapers in the country. Today, I report on Denver City Hall, homelessness and other topics for NewsBreak, much like I did in my twenties covering Newport Beach, Calif. for the Daily Pilot. I consider myself a lucky guy to still be doing what I love after so many years.

Denver, CO
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