Memorial service planned for former Eagle River man killed by police in Colorado

Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - 11:35
  • In this image taken from the May 14, 2011 edition of the Star, Eagle River’s Michael Kocher holds and Iraqi boy during Kocher’s deployment to Iraq as a member of the U.S. Marine Reserves. Police in Englewood, Colorado say they shot and killed Kocher following an armed standoff on Friday, March 3, 2017. (Chugiak-Eagle River Star archives)

Michael Kocher’s death at the hands of police near Denver, Colorado earlier this month was the final chapter in a story that had become increasingly tragic as Kocher descended into a world of drugs and psychological problems.

Friends of Kocher, a 32-year-old former Marine reservist from Eagle River, acknowledge he had major problems — problems that came to a head March 3, when police say he took several people hostage and was shot after a lengthy standoff in the Denver suburb of Englewood.

But they also remember a fun-loving, talented and adventurous young man who had a bright future before the drugs and mental problems took over.

“He wasn’t perfect, but he was a real fun guy,” said Josh Lester, who was friends with Kocher growing up in Eagle River.

Lester said the duo would often take long road trips — once to Yakutat to go surfing, another time to San Diego for spring break — on a whim. Kocher was always up for an adventure, Lester said.

“He was just very adventuresome,” Lester said.

After college, the two drifted apart. As the years went by, Lester — a member of the Air National Guard — began to lose touch with Kocher. Lester knew Kocher had problems with drugs.

“I got a little distance from him,” Lester said.

Lester tried to check in on Kocher once in a while, but it was clear drugs had taken over his friend’s life.

“We didn’t have a lot of similar hobbies anymore,” Lester said.

But friendships aren’t easily broken — even in death. That’s why Lester is planning a memorial service for Kocher to be held Friday, March 24 at the Eagle River VFW. He said he wanted people to remember the good in Michael Kocher and “connect with the good guy he was.”

The memorial service is open to anyone who knew Kocher. Lester said he doesn’t have many specific plans for the event other than perhaps a slide show showing Kocher in happier times. Mainly he said the event is intended to be a time for people to share memories of a life cut short.

“I just wanted to do something to let people know that he’s not totally forgotten.”

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