Wy. officer who crashed trying to stop a speeder dies

By Juliette Rule
Wyoming Tribune-Eagle
Copyright 2006 Cheyenne Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

CHEYENNE- The Cheyenne police officer hurt while trying to stop a speeder Monday died Wednesday of injuries suffered in that crash.

Dennis Shuck, 54, died about 9:30 a.m. at United Medical Center-West, where he earlier had undergone surgery to repair internal injuries, including a torn aorta, broken arm and broken clavicle, as well as the removal of a kidney.

He had been with the Cheyenne Police Department for about 12 years and had been in the Air Force and National Guard before that, Police Capt. Jeff Schulz said.

Shuck will be remembered for his good nature and calm demeanor in a job that sometimes hands out challenges in truckloads, fellow officers said.

He was riding his police-issued motorcycle with its emergency lights and siren on when he and a pickup truck collided near Capital Lumber about 9 a.m. Monday. The cause of that crash remains under investigation, and, as of Wednesday afternoon, no citations had been issued by investigators with the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

"You never heard anyone say anything bad about him," Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper Joey Scimone said Wednesday.

That included even those to whom Shuck had written citations.

And write tickets, he did.

Scimone, who began his law enforcement career with the Cheyenne Police Department five years ago, guessed Shuck wrote about 2,000 a year.

That was a testament to his work ethic, but that speeders, as unhappy as they no doubt were about that pricey piece of paper in their hand, could agree Shuck was polite and courteous says much more about the man, Scimone said.

It was that right mix of age, maturity and demeanor that gave Shuck that advantage in police work, where finding trouble is the name of the game.

"Dennis just really kept his cool," Scimone said, and that made him a great role model "for us younger guys."

Shuck's death in the line of duty is the second in about 50 years for the local police department.

"It's the one thing I've never wanted to face," Police Chief Bob Fecht said Wednesday.

In 1954, officer Jack Jernigan was walking a young male suspect through a Capitol Avenue restaurant when that young man turned a .25-caliber pistol on him, according to a newspaper story at the time.

"I'll take another 50," Schulz said.

On Aug. 1, 1985, the Laramie County Sheriff's Office lost deputy Robert Alyne as he attempted to rescue a young girl from flood waters.

Shuck wasn't a complainer, and he liked his job in traffic enforcement, which isn't known for being glamorous or particularly exciting, Schulz said.

"He liked the service aspect of being a cop," Schulz said. "It's not the most glorious job. He was fulfilling a very important role for the city."

In February, Shuck lost his wife, Shirley, to a long-term illness. During that time, Shuck remained loving and loyal, Scimone said.

That experience might have granted Shuck a certain philosophy or perspective on life, but it again made great modeling for Scimone, who recently became engaged himself.

"I admired him and really looked up to him and how he persevered," the trooper said. "I'm a better person for having known him."

The Shucks married in 1973, according to her obituary, which listed survivors as a son, Travis, of Grand Junction, Colo., and daughter Stephanie Swearingen of Cheyenne and six grandchildren. Schulz said Shuck was engaged to be married soon.

"He was so excited about getting married," Scimone said.

Outside of the department, Shuck did professional photography, including weddings and portraiture.

Some of those weddings were hosted by police officers - one of those bookings was Scimone's wedding, to which Shuck offered to travel to Orlando, Fla., to shoot.

"He said that would be a great excuse to see some family there," Scimone said.

Some of those photos were of police officers' children. All of the small oval photos of Cheyenne police officers mounted, framed and hung throughout police headquarters were taken by Shuck.

Much of that work was done in Shuck's basement, Schulz said.

Losing Shuck certainly will bring grief to the department, and the sheriff's office, too, since Shuck worked there as a detention officer before signing on to be a Cheyenne police officer in 1994.

But events like this also can bring a department closer together, Schulz added.

He wasn't sure when funeral services would be or where, but the death of an officer brings much more than a simple service.

There will be a processional, and that will include other Laramie County police agencies, but it also is likely to include officers from surrounding counties.

"People could come 100 miles to drive in the processional," Schulz said. "I guess we think we should take care of our own." 
August 24, 2006

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