DENVER – A touching tribute to a fallen Denver police officer has captured hearts across the country. Denver Police Department Det. Donnie Young was shot and killed in the line of duty in 2005. He left behind a wife and two young girls.
One of his daughters, Kourtney Krietemeier, recently got married.
“Big life moments are hard not having him here," Kourtney said.
Kourtney and her husband Tanner said they tried to figure out little things they could do to make sure her father's memory was there but that it was not a sad day.
“I had my dad’s necklace wrapped around my bouquet. Tanner and I did a shot of Patron during the ceremony in his honor. We tried to make it fun -- smiles, happy memories," Kourtney said.
Her mom walked her down the aisle. They were followed by two of Young’s closest friends and colleagues.
“That was a really hard thing to think about, walking down the aisle without him. So I was excited to have my mom walk me down because she’s everything to me. But having Jeff and Chris behind me was it really solidified everything and made me feel like he was a part of it," Kourtney said.
Then, Kourtney 's mom surprised her daughter. She secretly arranged for Young’s fellow officers to take his place in the traditional father-daughter dance.
“I was shocked. The look on my face in the video was like, 'Oh no.' I just knew the tears were going to be flowing," Kourtney said.
One by one, the officers took turns spending a few moments on the dance floor with Kourtney. She said they told her “pretty much how proud they were of me, how special my dad was to them, just how excited they were for us.”
Tanner said, “It’s a pretty amazing thing to watch how they come together wrap around and support Kourtney and her family, it’s a special thing.”
Officer Danny Veith was the first officer on the dance floor.
“It was very emotional. I felt despair like Donnie’s being robbed of this moment. Then I took stock of all that has happened in the last 14 years and looking at Kelly and all she has accomplished in the last 14 years since Donnie’s murder and then seeing Kelsey and Kourtney are these beautiful young women. Little girls no more. So the emotions finally ended up with joy, seeing how happy Kourtney and Tanner were and the future they had," Veith said. "I just told her how Donnie was and is proud of her. Being the first to dance with her, I got to see every other officer walk out, very proud, happy fathers. And then as they turned their back to Kourtney to return to our group, every single one of them was crying. At that moment, I was just so proud of these guys and how far they have come in the last 14 years.”
Officers Chris Shotts and Jeff Baran expressed similar sentiments.
“It was an honor to be part of that special moment. She has come such a long way and is a great kid. Donnie is up there watching and couldn’t be more proud of her," Shotts said.
“There is no way I would’ve missed that. I’ve been talking with them since the day it happened, and I’ve tried to be there to support them every step of the way. This was a small part we could do to make sure he is never forgotten," Baran said.
Sgt. Bobby Waidler said being included in the special moment was an honor.
"It is representative of when you join the Denver Police Department and you are part of this family and you always will be," he said.
The Paul Simon song they played during the dance was particularly meaningful.
“When I was super young, my dad got me small replica of his badge with his number on it for Christmas. He played that song when he gave it to me," Kourtney said.
She wasn’t sure she wanted that song played at their wedding because she thought it would be too emotional. But she is glad now that it provided a very special moment.
Kourtney said their wedding day was perfect because of all the people who were there.
“These are good, amazing people that put their lives on the line for us every single day. You never know what’s going to happen, you never know if they will be there tomorrow, so make sure you tell them how much you appreciate them," she said.