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Shooting victim lived simply, loved nature

Samuel Gordon called ‘ambassador of the natural world’

Samuel Gordon lived a simple life.

He didn’t drive, he loved nature and he wanted to study bugs, rocks and plants for the rest of his life, said his mother, Jeanette Phillips.

“He didn’t like to wear clothing with name brands on them,” Phillips said in an interview Tuesday. “He didn’t want to advertise for anybody. He just wore what was comfortable and what he could find at the thrift store. He was a simple person.”

But all of that came to an end early Tuesday when he was shot in the stomach during a home invasion in Durango’s SkyRidge subdivision.

Gordon, 20, was rushed to the hospital, where he died in surgery, Phillips said.

A chaplain at Mercy Regional Medical Center told her he’d never seen a gunshot victim who was so calm. Gordon complained that his leg hurt, she said, even though he had been shot in the gut.

After being told he didn’t make it through surgery, she spent a few last moments with her son’s body before it was taken to the mortuary. Phillips then went to her son’s house at 253 Jenkins Ranch Road to see if she could learn anything more about what happened.

One of his friends who was at the townhome during the incident said Gordon was calm, collected and alert after being shot.

“He was telling them, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t have called the ambulance. That is going to cost too much money,’” Phillips said.

Gordon, who attended Southwest Open Charter School in Cortez, did dual enrollment with Southwest Colorado Community College in Mancos so he could start Fort Lewis College in the fall of 2014 with pre-credits, she said. He was attending college classes Monday through Friday in hopes of graduating early.

“He was extremely intelligent, gifted and talented his entire life, literally in the gifted program,” Phillips said. “He could read at 3 years old. He was so smart – absolute genius.”

In a high school yearbook, Gordon wrote that he hoped people could one day live symbiotically with the planet, said Jennifer Chappel, director of Southwest Open School. He also wrote that he hoped people could see themselves as individuals, aspiring to do what they want in life, rather than being told what to do, she said.

In the same yearbook, Chappell said one student wrote “One day, Sam Gordon is going to save the world.”

“(Sam) was an ambassador of the natural world and a philosopher who challenged us all to think critically about ourselves and the world,” Chappell said.

Gordon, who majored in environmental and organismic biology, wanted to do work in nature as a forest ranger or something else, his mother said.

“He wanted to work for National Geographic, and travel the world and be that guy who went into creepy caves and discover new bugs or something,” Phillips said. “He thought that was fun.”

He was an avid recycler and shopped at thrift stores – not because he couldn’t afford new clothes – but because he didn’t want to be wasteful, she said.

Gordon was born Dec. 14, 1995. He is survived by his mother and three sisters: Natasha Gordon, Raquel Lucero and Elizabeth Schnell. No services had been planned as of Tuesday night.

Julie Korb, Gordon’s biology professor at Fort Lewis College, said Gordon emailed her at 7:16 p.m. Monday about an internship he was trying to set up.

She called him “super dedicated” and “extremely bright.”

“He was one of the most dedicated students, and was actively doing everything to set himself up to go into a career to protect the environment and the nature that he loved,” Korb said. “It’s just really upsetting that something like this could happen to such an amazing individual.

“He wouldn’t even hurt a fly.”

Matt Wilson, owner of Four Corners Whitewater, said Gordon had obtained his rafter’s guide certification and planned to do some trips this summer.

“He just seemed like a kid with a lot of promise and a lot of drive – a whole life ahead of him,” Wilson said. “I’m just totally blown away. It’s a total waste. A bunch of lives have been wrecked.”

shane@durangoherald.com. The Journal of Cortez, Dolores and Mancos contributed to this story.

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