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Longtime Durango officer dies of heart attack

Archuleta

By Ann Butler Herald staff writer

A man who loved law enforcement and trained numerous officers and deputies during his 33-year career with the Durango Police Department, Anthony Clyde “Tony” Archuleta, died suddenly of a heart attack Wednesday in Ignacio. It was the day after his 62nd birthday.

After joining the Durango Police Department Reserves in 1976, Archuleta became a full-time police office in 1977, serving until his retirement April 25, 2009. During his career, he was a corporal, patrol sergeant, investigator and administrative sergeant, serving in that position for about the last half of his career.

“You thought of him kind of like your dad,” said Lt. Ray Shupe, spokesman for the department. “For every new officer, Tony Archuleta was the first point of contact.

“Police work is an unpredictable field of work, and you can show up the first day to your field training officer and be shot and killed. He would sit down and help you decide what kind of funeral you wanted, who should be your pallbearers, before you even went to training,” Shupe said.

That was only the beginning of Archuleta’s support of his fellow officers.

“Tony came from that mentality, that era, when it wasn’t cool to admit to having any problems after an officer-involved shooting or a fellow officer was shot and killed, a time when officers just sucked it up,” Shupe said, “But he saw officers struggling with addictions, drug and alcohol abuse, and it became something personal to him before we even knew what post-traumatic stress was and how it affected us. He helped change the tide for how we take care of ourselves by bringing in critical-incident stress debriefing teams.”

Archuleta also undertook extensive training that led to his being named the fifth Drug Recognition Expert in the state, a special honor, Shupe said. He trained numerous officers and deputies in how to use the breath-test equipment to measure blood-alcohol levels and administer field sobriety tests, maintaining the equipment and often testifying as to its accuracy.

“Being in law enforcement meant everything to him,” his wife, Bernadette, said. “He loved being a police officer and loved being there.”

Archuleta was born to Joe and Mary Archuleta on June 18, 1951, in Durango. He grew up in Durango, graduating from Durango High School in 1969. While attending Fort Lewis College, he met his future wife, Bernadette Sisneros. The couple married Feb. 20, 1970, in Durango.

After enjoying one year of retirement, Archuleta began working as a security guard at Sky Ute Casino, later joining the Southern Ute Gaming Division as an investigator.

“Tony enjoyed photography and wildlife, genealogy research and riding his motorcycle,” his family said. “Most of all, Tony loved spending time with his family, especially his grandchildren.”

abutler@durangoherald.com

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