Garfield County, CO – Eagle County Sheriff’s Deputy Tayler Esslinger died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a rural area of Garfield County on June 25.
More than 75 volunteers joined local law enforcement to search for the 26-year-old deputy after his cell phone pinged a cell tower at approximately 4 a.m. the morning of his death, the Summit Daily reported.
A Salvation Army mobile kitchen arrived to provide food for the search parties that combed the rural area on ATV’s, horseback, four-wheel drive vehicles, and on foot.
At approximately 9:35 a.m. on June 28, after three days of searching, a National Guard helicopter crew located Deputy Esslinger’s black Dodge Ram pickup parked on Deep Creek Road, Vail Daily reported.
They discovered the deputy’s body inside his vehicle.
On Tuesday, Garfield County Coroner Robert Glassmire announced that Deputy Esslinger’s death was determined to be a suicide.
In addition to his service as a detention deputy with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office (ECSO), Deputy Esslinger also served as a volunteer Gypsum Fire Protection District (GFPD) firefighter for 12 years.
“The Esslinger Family, Gypsum Fire Protection District, Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and all of Tayler’s friends throughout our community continue to work through this very tragic loss of one of our own,” the departments said in a joint statement.
“While the outcome is heartbreaking to all of us, we are happy to have been able to bring Tayler home,” the statement read. “Now we can celebrate his life and dedication to Eagle County and start to heal from his loss. The love and support this community has provided through this heartbreaking time is truly beyond words. This support has been a comfort to us all.”
Deputy Esslinger’s wife, Vanessa, said that her husband loved serving his community as both a firefighter and a law enforcement officer, the Summit Daily reported.
“Tayler loves this community so much,” she said through tears during a press conference on June 28. “He dedicated his life to it.”
Gypsum Fire Chief Justin Kirkland said that Deputy Esslinger was a valued member of the departments he served.
“Tayler was at our very center and will be sorely missed,” Chief Kirkland said. “We appreciate the droves of people willing to go into the backcountry and spend days endlessly searching.”
In addition to his wife, Deputy Esslinger also leaves behind his parents, Bill and Debi, as well as his sisters, Amanda and Angie, his brothers, Josh and Will, and his twin brother, Tyler, according to his obituary.
“Tayler was loved by his community, friends, his brothers and sisters at the Gypsum Fire Department and the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office,” his obituary read. “If you had the privilege to know him, you know how much of an impact he made in people’s lives…Tayler was kind and had a big heart, and he will be missed by all.”
Deputy Esslinger will be laid to rest on July 8.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Eagle County Sheriff’s Deputy Tayler Esslinger, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.