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Sgt. Michael Moran remembered as ‘hero, dad, son and friend’ at Cortez service

The funeral procession of Cortez Police Department, Sgt. Michael Moran, passes under a flag that the Cortez Fire Protection District placed Wednesday in Cortez. Jerry McBride/Durango Herald
Moran was shot and killed in the line of duty last Wednesday

Hundreds of law enforcement officers, family and friends on Wednesday morning filled the Cortez Recreation Center and nearly 900 others viewed the livestream of Sgt. Michael Anthony Moran’s funeral a week after he was killed in the line of duty.

After a bagpipe procession led in the flag-draped casket, many tributes were given in honor of Moran. Those who spoke shared many touching and humorous stories while honoring Moran as a hero as his two daughters, father and close friends listened on. Along the stage, five blue-line flags stood, paying homage to Sgt. Moran’s call sign S-5.

Cortez Police Sgt. Michael Moran died Wednesday after being shot during a traffic stop.

All were there to pay their respects to family members and colleagues of Sgt. Moran, who was gunned down during a traffic stop Nov. 29 in the 800 block of South Broadway Street in southwest Cortez. The stop was initiated by Moran due to reckless driving.

After Chaplain Dave Guy’s opening prayer, Cortez Police Department Sgt. Rogelio Maynard thanked everyone in attendance, sharing that Moran would have been awed by the outpouring of love and support to him and his family.

“We all knew Mike would always have our backs,” he said.

Maynard shared Moran’s love for his daughters and K-9 officer Otto, who died in October.

“We’re happy to know that they’re back together,” Maynard said of Moran and Otto. “Mike always had that dog’s back, and today we lay to rest a hero, a great man, a father, a son and a friend to many at the Cortez Police Department.”

“I regret that it took losing Mike for me to figure out why he was placed in my life,” Maynard added tearfully. “He wanted to be a leader of high integrity. He wanted me to hold people accountable, including myself. And above all, he wanted me to always be there for the guys, and he wanted me to always have their back. Rest easy, my friend. I got their backs from here.”

Law enforcement makes their way to the Cortez Recreation Center on Wednesday for Cortez Police Department, Sgt. Michael Moran’s funeral. Jerry McBride/Durango Herald

Following Maynard, Police Chief Vernon Knuckles spoke of his fond memories of Moran, remembering him as a kind and professional police officer “who left a profound impact on our agency and in this community.”

“November 29, 2023 will be marked as another tragic day in our department’s history,” Knuckles said. “So many lives were changed forever last Wednesday. This day will always be remembered as a life cut short, a career that ended too soon and a son, friend and police officer who had much more to accomplish and a father of two wonderful girls with so many more memories left to be made.”

Knuckles spoke of Moran’s love of the K-9 program and his wish for the program to be up and running again, as well as his passion for his job as a police officer.

“When God chose to take Mike home, he chose to do it while Mike was doing what he loved, being a police officer. Being a police officer wasn’t just a job to Mike, it was a calling,” Knuckles said.

Chief Knuckles went on to thank the Cortez Police Deparment for their work and how they had come together during this time, sharing that people become police officers “because we get to work with people like Mike.”

“Police officers who are willing to sacrifice their time for others, who are often strangers, and who are willing to do what Mike did on November 29, which was to stand as a guardian and selflessly lay down his life for others and serve as a bastion of the better angels of our nature,” Knuckles said. “Today we say goodbye to Mike, but we never let him go. Mike may no longer be with us, but he will never be forgotten. Mike will live with us for the rest of our lives. … God bless you, Mike. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.’”

Crisis help resources

*Axis Care Line: 970.247.5245, available 24/7 for free Confidential mental health support.

*Colorado Crisis Services 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255

*Copline: 1-800-267-5463

This resource is a confidential, 24-hour law enforcement officer hotline manned by retired law enforcement officers trained in active listening. Available to current and retired law enforcement, families, and their children. They can also refer to professional resources.

*Safe Call Now at 1-206-459-3020

*Safe Call Now is a resource for public safety employees to speak confidentially with officers, former law enforcement officers, public safety professionals, and/or mental health care providers who are familiar with your line of work. Confidential comprehensive, 24-hour crisis referral service for all public safety employees, all emergency services personnel, and their family members nationwide.

After playing “Officer Down” by Chase Curl, Cortez Police Department Detective Traci Mueller spoke to attendees while standing with Sgt. Moran’s eldest daughter, who graduated from high school in the spring.

In her eulogy, Mueller shared how Sgt. Moran helped her realize her dream of becoming a police officer after she moved to Cortez in 2016 to be a dispatcher.

After a rocky start to their relationship as co-workers and a peace offering of Snickers, Mueller said Sgt. Moran became a best friend to her and her husband, and that his family had become theirs.

“If we weren’t taunting each other, something was wrong,” Mueller said. “He was not only a best friend of mine and my husband, but he took the part of Uncle Michael who never missed a birthday or special event. He always called after every game. He created a bond within my entire family that we’ll never get back.”

She revealed to Moran that she was afraid of firearms after her police officer father had to pull his firearm to “eliminate a threat” and her mother had been involved in an active shooter situation.

She said Moran’s encouragement and help with preparation for the police officer application and police academy helped her realize her dream.

“Michael called every single day after the academy just to ask how it went,” Mueller said.

After sharing more stories about her time with Moran, Mueller closed with a promise to take care of Moran’s daughters.

“I’m not sure how I will get by day to day without our phone calls,” Mueller shared. “I know that you can count on me to do the most important thing for you and that is be there for your girls. We love you; I love you. I wish I was there to have your six. We got it from here, Michael.”

Moran’s father, Tommy Moran, a Vietnam veteran, also spoke, sharing his emotion about the support and love seen from the community and how he watched his son become a man.

“I was so amazed. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” he shared. “The police department was family to Michael and everybody in this room became family.”

Both of Moran’s daughters, his father and Mueller and her husband received flags from the CPD after “Taps” played and a rifle salute of three volleys was fired outside.

The CPD honored Moran’s life one last time by doing a last call for Sgt. Moran and his call sign.

According to Knuckles, Moran’s call sign, Tez S-5, will be retired and never used again in the department in honor of Sgt. Moran.

“S-5, Cortez. S-5 Cortez. This is the last call for S-5 Sergeant Michael Anthony Moran on November 29, 2023 at 11:34 a.m. Cortez police sergeant ran home to join his beloved K-9 partner, Otto. His presence in the Cortez Police Department and community will be remembered and never forgotten. Mike, rest in peace. We will take the watch from here,” the dispatcher on the last call said.

Moran was born on July 6, 1977 in Rochester, Pennsylvania, the second child to James Tommy Moran and mother Angelica Moran, who died Oct. 23, 2007.

He served in the Marine Corps as a radio field operator and Bell UH-1N Twin Huey Helicopter mechanic, serving two tours in Iraq, according to information provided at the service.

As a Marine, he received the Combat Action Ribbon Iraq, Marine Good Conduct Medal twice, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon twice, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal Iraq, National Defense Service Medal, Presidential Unit Citation Navy and Navy Unit Commendation.

While in the service, he met his wife, Kimberly James, and they had two daughters together.

Sgt. Moran with his K-9 partner, Otto. (Cortez Police Department)

Moran started with the Cortez Police Department in 2012, according to the police department. He found “true joy” working with his K-9 Otto.

Otto was born around April 2013 and partnered with Moran in summer 2014. Even though Otto hadn’t been academy trained, he patrolled with Moran for two years before being enrolled in a five-week, 200-hour Basic Patrol School at the Inglis Police Dog Academy in Oxnard, California. They completed the certification for narcotics detection from Southwest Working K-9 Association in 2015 and completed Urban Tracking School in 2018.

He was trained in obedience, tracking, urban tracking, building searches, area searches, article searches, apprehension and narcotics detection, according to information obtained by The Journal.

In 2020, Otto retired and lived with Moran family until his end of watch on Oct. 17, 2023.

Moran was promoted to sergeant in 2021 and sworn into his position as a Rico marshal June 10, 2022.

Moran was an “avid amateur drone pilot and used the equipment for searches where darkness and treacherous landscapes could cause harm to officers. He shared his experience with the Cortez Citizens Academy in fall 2023 and made sure they all were able to experience the sunset through the eyes of the drone.”