- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 7, 2015

DENVERIt didn’t matter to Chauncey and Kenneth Tate that Sgt. Sean Renfro was white, just like it didn’t matter to him that they weren’t.

What matters is that Jefferson County Sheriff’s Sgt. Renfro, 40, gave his life Saturday to help rescue the Tate siblings and Chauncey’s 9-month-old son Angus after their SUV slid into the side of a mountain during a Colorado snowstorm.

The juxtaposition of Sgt. Renfro’s death and national news coverage depicting officers as threats to the black community wasn’t lost on the Tates’ father, Derwood Tate, pastor of the Upper Room Church in Lakewood, Colorado.

“There’s been a lot of bad publicity lately,” Mr. Tate told The Washington Times. “Sgt. Renfro was Caucasian and we’re African-Americans, but he died protecting my kids.”

Mr. Tate is black and his wife, Nancy Tate, is Hispanic. Their children, one of whom is adopted, are both black and Hispanic.

The off-duty deputy was directing traffic away from the Tates’ vehicle when he was hit by a car that skidded out of control on the snowy road. He died at the scene. Shortly beforehand, Sgt. Renfro had escorted the Tates out of the path of traffic and into his truck.

If he hadn’t, Kenneth Tate said it’s likely that the car would have hit the SUV with the Tates in it.

“The SUV was in the path of that car so we would have been hit no matter what,” said an emotional Mr. Tate, 20, at a Monday press conference, adding, “He was a really great man. He was a hero.”

Added his 26-year-old sister Chauncey Tate: “If it wasn’t for him keeping us safe, I’m not sure we would be here.”

“I don’t know him, but I am extremely grateful, especially in these days and times when people in that profession have been questioned,” Derwood Tate said at the press conference. “All I can say is that, he’s where I probably should have been. I couldn’t get there. That’s how you kind of see an angel: An angel can to a place where you can’t get to.”

Mr. Renfro, a 15-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, was off duty and driving his truck with a friend, Samual Yesurantnam, when they saw the Tates’ vehicle stuck in the mountainside on U.S. 285.

The Tates had been returning home to Conifer from a church youth conference in Colorado Springs. Sgt. Renfro and Mr. Yesurantnam moved the Tates out of their vehicle and into the truck before they began directing traffic around the accident.

“They said, ‘Come sit in our truck so that you’re warm and you’re safe that way,’” Chauncey Tate said.

About an hour later, a Ford Escape SUV lost control and veered across the median, striking the off-duty officer and Mr. Yesurantnam, 46, who was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries, according to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.

At Monday’s press conference, Ms. Tate praised Sgt. Renfro for going out of his way to help the family on what was his day off.

“I can’t express the amount of gratitude I have for him,” Ms. Tate said. “I have a lot of respect for law enforcement and it just reaffirms that respect because he’s off-duty, he has no reason to stop, he could go about his life and just said, ‘Other officers are on their way, they’ll be OK,’ but he took that time.”

Derwood Tate, who called the two men “our guardian angels,” said he was “heartbroken” that the deputy lost his life.

“When he got them out of the car, he was shielding them from the traffic. He was doing everything that a person protecting would do. He shielded them the whole time,” Mr. Tate said. I was hurt and just disturbed by the fact that he had to die doing that. I wish it could have been different, I wish something else could have happened.”

“I will be forever grateful to Officer Renfro for being there for my children and that they came out with no harm,” Mr. Tate said.

Chauncey Tate said Sgt. Renfro, his wife and four children will always be in her prayers.

“I can only convey to his family that I may not know him personally, I may not know them personally, but I love them,” Ms. Tate said. “I’m thankful for them and I’m thankful for him. And that every day they will be in my prayers.”

A fund set up for the Renfro family at GoFundMe had raised nearly $40,000 as of Wednesday. The funeral is scheduled for Monday at Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada.

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