AURORA | Rev. Milton N. Thomas, a stalwart Aurora leader who regularly helped provide food, school supplies and gifts for the area’s neediest children and helped steer several city groups intended to braid stronger ties between residents and law enforcement, died at the Medical Center of Aurora Sunday after contracting COVID-19.
He was 70.
A spokesperson for the Arapahoe County Coroner’s office confirmed Thomas died at 2:20 p.m. Easter Sunday after testing positive for the novel coronavirus. He had underlying health conditions, the spokesperson said.
Thomas was a longtime member of the Aurora Key Community Response Team, which was created in the early 1990s to enhance fraying relations between residents and the city’s police department. He was also a member of the Aurora Community of Faith, which aims to tether city officials to various religious leaders.
Thomas was known among current rank-and-file Aurora cops as the driving force behind “Shop with a Cop,” a biannual event that pairs local officers with area children for a $200 shopping spree through the Walmart on South Chambers Road. Local officers take children through the store to buy school supplies in late summer, and again in December to nab gifts for themselves and family members.
“He’s just been fantastic getting the community involved,” said Judy Lutkin, president of the Aurora Police Association, which has helped organize the event for the past several years.
Thomas personally coordinated with local school districts to ensure children had bus transportation to and from the event.
Former Police Chief Nick Metz said Thomas was one of the first people he met when he moved to Aurora from Seattle in 2015.
“He has been an incredible partner to the city and his presence will be forever missed,” Metz said in a statement. “My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife and family during this time made even more difficult by the recent COVID crisis.”
Metz said he will remember Thomas’s loyalty, fierce convictions and “very wacky sense of humor.”
Metz said Thomas would often prompt him to speak at services he was officiating with little or no warning.
“He could see me walking up to the podium as I was trying to figure out what I was going to say, and he would make eye contact with me and give a wink,” Metz wrote. “I knew he was giggling to himself that he was able to make a police chief do what he said.”
Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler and representatives from Aurora Fire Rescue also mourned Thomas’s death on social media Monday.
“His giant heart will be missed,” Brauchler’s office wrote on Facebook.
Another longtime Aurora cop, Commander Marcus Dudley, lauded Thomas’s commitment to serving others, a quality that he said resonated with many local officers.
“We get into this field, and we know of the level of service that we have to have,” Dudley said. “To have a citizen have that same level of desire to serve is just amazing.”
Dudley directed a reporter to a YouTube video of Thomas entitled “Gospel Comedy w/ Rev. Milton Thomas” from 2011. In the 15-minute-long clip, Thomas delivers a rollicking sermon peppered with laughs and applause.
“It’s just love and happiness,” Thomas says at the beginning of his remarks, quoting Al Green’s eponymous tune. “Tell you what, love will make you do right, and love will make you do wrong.”
He then coyly points his finger at the crowd as parishioners begin to sing along.
“Somebody know that song?” he says with a grin. ” … It’s a joy to be here.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.