Garrett Swasey, a police officer killed in the Planned Parenthood shooting Friday, grew up in Melrose but moved to Colorado in the 1980s to pursue his first love -- competitive figure skating.
Six years ago, around the time his daughter was born, he joined the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs police force, his father said Friday night in an emotional phone interview. Garrett Swasey and his wife, Rachel, also have an 11-year-old son.
"He wanted to try to help people, which he did a lot of," said the slain officer's father, David Swasey, 73. "He really enjoyed his work."
Garrett Swasey, 44, was one of three people allegedly murdered by a gunman who police say stormed a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and opened fire. He surrendered hours after a tense gun battle with authorities.
"He was a great dad," Swasey said. "I mean, a super dad. Everybody in the police department loved him. Anybody who ever met him loved him. He was a great guy, a great person."
He said his son graduated from Melrose High School and, in addition to his wife, children, and parents, leaves an older sister.
Swasey said his heart sank when police informed him that his son was among the dead.
"It was like somebody pulled my heart out," he said.
Garrett Swasey was also a man of abiding faith.
Reverend Scott Dontanville, co-pastor of Hope Chapel in Colorado Springs, said the slain officer had also served as a co-pastor of the reformed Protestant church.
Dontanville said he and Swasey, a fan of the New England Patriots, would often rib each other about their respective football allegiances, since Dontanville, like many in Colorado, roots for the Denver Broncos.
"That's something he would always give us trouble for on Sunday morning," he said of their football rivalry. "He was an awesome man. ... Great father, great husband, good friend -- caring, compassionate."
Dontanville said Swasey's faith would have helped him "go in and lay down his life for someone else."
"Here's what he would want to be known for," he said. "He's a man who loved the gospel of Jesus Christ, and if you stuck around him long enough, that's what he stood for."
As a skater, Garrett Swasey had trained with legendary coach Sandy Hess and won a national championship in the junior ranks, his father said.
He competed in the US Championships at least three times; in 1991 in Minneapolis and 1993 in Phoenix with skating partner Christine Fowler, and in 1995 in Providence with partner Hillary Tompkins.
"The whole figure skating world's devastated for this loss," David Swasey said.