DENVER | Aurora’s mayor and police chief were among many honoring a man Saturday who rescued his grandson from an attacker but was then tragically shot dead by a police officer at a chaotic scene at his home.
Richard Gary Black Jr., 73, was praised by at services attended by about 120 people at Fairmont Cemetery with full military honors for his heroism during the Vietnam War.
Friends and family said it was Black’s natural courage that made him a hero even at his death, where he was killed inside his home July 30, just moments after himself shooting a crazed intruder in the middle of the night, who was trying to kill his 11-year-old grandson.
Black was killed by an Aurora police officer during a chaotic scene at the Black’s home. Police say Black shot Dajon Harper, 26, when Harper, charged up with drugs, barged into the home in the middle of the night and inexplicably attacked Black’s grandson.
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Mayor Bob LeGare said after the service that he was there to honor Black, a remarkable man, and his family. Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz also attended the service, accompanied by six other command-staff officers.
Metz declined to comment after the service.
Previously though, he said that he, his department, and the officer who fatally shot Black were heartbroken by Black’s death. He has staunchly stood behind the officer and the department, however, saying after watching police body camera video of the chaos inside the house, it was clear that police were not reckless.
The incident has highlighted a number of issues, including how soon officers should be returned to active duty after being involved in a police shooting. The officer who shot Black, also reportedly a military veteran, had been involved in a lethal police shooting in late June. He returned to duty 18 days after the shooting, police said, a decision Metz has defended. He’s been on the Aurora force for three years, police said.
State Sen. Rhonda Fields also attended the service. Fields said she plans to consult with Black’s family, and that she’s considering either legislative inquiry into the length of time an officer is returned to duty after being involved in a shooting, and possibly legislation as well.
She, too, said Black was an extraordinary person, and that the tragedy surrounding his death raises questions that must be answered.
Metz has also pointed out the unique and tragic circumstances of the incident.
“I can tell you that when my folks sat around the table and first saw (video recordings ) — and I’m talking about police personnel who have been on the job 25, 30 years who have seen just about everything — there wasn’t a dry eye around the table,” Metz said during an Aug. 3 press conference.
“It is very horrific to watch, not just from the standpoint of watching a man who saved his family get shot but also knowing what that little boy was subjected to,” he said.
Adams County District Attorney officials are investigating the incident.
Both Black’s widow, Jeannette Black, and his grandson attended the funeral, receiving a U.S. flag after heavily attended military honors. The ceremony included a release of doves, and the military honor bell.
Black was a highly decorated soldier. He received the Purple Heart for injuries sustained during active duty during the Vietnam War. He was also awarded three Bronze Stars for heroism during combat and the Army Commendation Medal, awarded to Army soldiers for distinguished battle conduct.
Black was born Jan. 20, 1945, on a family farm in Anderson, S.C, but he also lived in an orphanage in Columbia.
Black graduated from the Citadel in Charleston. He was also an accomplished singer, who loved folk music and singing all his life, friends said.
In 1974, Black moved to Aurora, where he met his future wife, Jeannette, and her son, Chad.
The Blacks ran the Sandtrap Restaurant and Bar and S.O.S. motel in Aurora.
He returned to school in 1990 and received degrees in accounting and computer information systems, He became a certified public accountant in 1994 and worked for the Internal Revenue Service until retirement in 2015.
Black was an avid gardener at his north-Aurora home. He was fluent in Cambodian and could speak several other languages.