SAGUACHE COUNTY — Former Gunnison County Sheriff Rick Besecker has signed on part-time with the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office to help patrol one of the most isolated parts of the county — the Cochetopa Pass area including Sargents, Vulcan, Gold Basin/Highlands and Doyleville.
Besecker is a good fit for the position. He was raised on a ranch near Cochetopa Pass 12 miles off Highway 285, the Quarter Circle Circle, and knows the geography well. He described the ranch as a working guest ranch, but minus electricity, running water and telephones. This is what made it so attractive to various Hollywood celebrities who returned year after year to “rough it” on the ranch, he explained.
“They worked themselves silly and paid for the privilege to do it,” Besecker remarked.
In the early 1970s, Besecker was sworn in as a peace officer in Saguache County. He worked first for the Gunnison Police Department and later for the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office, serving 24 years as undersheriff. Later he served eight years as sheriff.
When Sheriff Dan Warwick asked him to help out with northern Saguache County, Besecker said he was happy to do as he was told. “It’s an enjoyable concept for a change,” he commented. Besecker so far has helped hash out land and right of way squabbles, help route ambulance calls, serve court summons and even had a brush with some counterfeit money being circulated in Sargents.
As undersheriff, Besecker helped establish the Colorado Police and Fire Games in 1985-86. Eventually the event became the World Police and Fire Games, second in size only to the Olympics, he said. The 1993 World Police and Fire Games were held in Colorado Springs, with 80 some countries and 6,000 athletes participating.
Fort Carson, the Air Force Academy, the Olympic Center and area Colorado Springs high schools helped host the games.
During his time as sheriff in Gunnison, he helped build a public safety center that included both a sheriff’s office and detention center. In addition, the county built a new courthouse, road and bridge office and human services office. But Besecker also related some interesting cases during his tenure there.
One of his outstanding cases involved a missing person report that eventually became a murder investigation. The missing man was found buried on the family ranch two years later. A woman confessed to the murder, admitting she had shot her son while he slept.
The murder was reportedly the result of a family feud that escalated out of control. The mother of the victim insisted she had acted alone, but several other family members were arrested in the case. Besecker said the woman was too frail to have buried the body by herself. She plead guilty but died of cancer before serving her sentence.
On a lighter note, one of the highlights of Besecker’s career was a case that easily could have ended tragically but thankfully ended well. A man had purchased a cheap raft to raft the Gunnison River with his two sons, ages six and four. While coursing down the river he encountered a fallen tree that snagged the raft and catapulted his 10 year-old-son into the water.
He did not see where the boy landed and could not leave the six-year-old to go after him. It was a hard decision, Besecker said, but he stayed with the raft and headed for dry land.
Later the sheriff’s office received a report that about a mile downstream from where the boy went into the water, a fisherman had rescued a young boy. The boy told the fisherman he had been thrown into the water further upstream and his dad and brother were still in the raft. An ambulance responded to the location and found the boy had no injuries but just needed warming up.
Soon the father and brother arrived on the scene and thought the worst – that the boy had not survived. “The father was in pieces,” Besecker said, “angry with himself and blaming himself.” But then he saw his son was alive. “To present the son he thought he had lost back to him is a moment I’ll treasure forever,” Besecker recalled with emotion.
In addition to his part-time duties in Saguache County, Besecker continues to write adventure novels based on his law enforcement experience and knowledge of the area he knows so well. His first novel, The Devil’s Pin Cushion, is available on Amazon.