Community Mourns Loss of Killed Lawmen: "Good Men, Good Neighbors"


We are hearing from neighbors who were shocked to learn about the loss of two lawmen killed in Friday’s plane crash in Southern Colorado.

The two Pueblo men have now been identified as Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office Law Enforcement Bureau Captain Leide DeFusco, and retired Pueblo Police Captain John Barger.

Both DeFusco and Barger were killed when an air mission took a tragic turn.

Neighbors of both men described them as being “good neighbors” but more importantly “good people.” They say the longtime public servants not only were dedicated to their community but reached out to neighbors to help in times of need.

Roy Grissom lives just a few houses down from Barger's former residence.

Barger retired as captain of investigations in 2009 after a 32-year career as a public servant. We’re told Barger was a flying enthusiast. The pilot was flying the plane when it went down.

“When I heard about the plane going down I just had this sickening feeling that it was somebody I knew,” said Grissom.

Grissom was neighbors with Barger for 35 years. He described him as a good neighbor, someone he felt was honest, fair, and easy to talk to.

"He was a good listener, just all-around a good person. If you needed to talk or wanted to talk, discuss things going on in the neighborhood or community, he was the kind of person you could talk to,” said Grissom. “We missed him when he moved away; it's gonna be even worse now.”

The other longtime public servant killed in the plane crash was DeFusco, who served the city of Pueblo for 21 years.

According to his biography on the Sheriff’s Office webpage, DeFusco worked with both the Pueblo Police Department and Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office during his career. He served in several position, and at the time of his death was overseeing the Patrol Division, CSU-Pueblo and Narcotics Unit within the Law Enforcement Bureau.

A neighbor of DeFusco said the news was unfathomable. Shirley Abernathy, who lived next door says they had been neighbors for well over 10 years, but knew the family much longer.

She described DeFusco as a caring neighbor, good father, and loving husband. She says he was an “all-around good person” who you could count on for everything. He would take out the trash for her as she currently has a broken foot. She says he offered to help in any way she needed when her husband passed away in February.

Abernathy was heartbroken to hear the news and says he will be missed.

All the neighbors we talked to were thankful for the service these two men gave to the community and for putting their lives on the line. They say not only will they be greatly missed, but wants the family to know they will not be forgotten.

Barger was flying the plane Friday when the two men were on an air mission doing surveillance of the San Isabel National Forest for illegal marijuana grows. The plane went down near St. Charles Peak.

NTSB is currently investigating what caused the plane to crash.

The mission was to make sure there was not new illegal marijuana growth in the Wet Mountains, where on August 15 law enforcement raided two illegal plantations, leading to the second largest bust of its kind in state history.

Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor was brought to tears when talking about the loss of the two men Friday night. He described them both as being close personal friends.

“We are all devastated; it’s been a tough year,” said Sheriff Taylor.

Recovery teams went to Greenhorn Mountain, where the plane crashed, early Saturday morning to recover the bodies. The coroner confirmed their names early Saturday afternoon. It took teams several hours to climb the rugged terrain, to bring the bodies off the mountain.

You can count on 11 News to bring you the latest on the investigation in this crash, and what more we learn about the lives of these two dedicated public servants.

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