Brent Kaufman will remember his friend John Hurley as a leader and a man of character who “stepped up and saw where help was needed,” whether he was helping to feed and clothe the homeless or letting people going through tough times stay in his Golden home.
While many unanswered questions still remain about the June 21 shooting in Olde Town Arvada that took Hurley's life, Arvada Police Chief Link Strate has suggested those qualities were on full display as gunfire erupted in the shopping area.
In a press conference on June 22, Strate described Hurley as a “true hero who likely disrupted what could've been a greater loss of life.” Arvada police have not yet said how Hurley did so, who killed him and if he was the one who killed the suspect.
“Given who he was, I am not surprised he was the first one who stepped up in a time of need out in the world,” said Kaufman, who had known Hurley for the last seven or eight years. “He was somebody who was not afraid to use his voice and show his heart.”
That sentiment was repeatedly echoed by the many friends of the Goldenite who offered their memories of him to Colorado Community Media.
Ian King said he worked with Hurley at All Love Catering from 2018 to 2020, when the caterer closed as a result of the COVID1-19 pandemic. He will remember Hurley as “one of the most solid and generous people with an incredible work ethic.”
“I always enjoyed my shifts with him and the times we got to hang and chat after work,” wrote King in a message to Colorado Community Media. “He truly inspired me to work hard and be better.
But it would be wrong to describe Hurley as perfect, Kaufman said.
“Johnny just as much as all of us had his journey and he was bettering his life,” he said. “And recently he was the happiest I have seen him in a long time.”
That journey had led Hurley to, among so many other things, a life of passionate advocacy for gun rights and other causes of individual rights.
Another friend, Rachel Sunshine, called Hurley “a well-known anarchist who believed the world would better without government” and was active in spreading the message of liberty.
That strong and passionate nature is readily apparent on Hurley's Facebook page, where he had recently posted about his opposition to pandemic lockdowns and distrust of the COVID-19 vaccine. Just a day before his death, he had questioned whether he had Facebook friends who were “thinking of reporting his radicalism.”
“If you are going to mention Johnny you've got to mention he was an activist,” said Kaufman. “That was a huge part of who he was.”
Cody Soules, who had known Johnny since they were in high school together in Colorado Springs, also used that word and said Hurley's outspoken nature could at times be misunderstood.
“He was an idealist, an activist and never shy to speak out…” he said. “At the end of the day he wanted to help people and his community.”
But while Hurley was intensely dedicated to his deep thoughts and beliefs, he also made ample time for other joys.
Kaufman called his friend an immensely talented musician who performed under the name Johnny Verbal beatboxing, rapping and playing drums.
“He could just make stuff up on the spot,” he said, who performed with him under the name burntMD. “It was incredible.”
But while the two loved making noise together, Kaufman said it is the softer, more contemplative moments that he will miss the most, such as when the men would discuss the nature of moral character.
“I wish I could get another hug from him,” he said. “I'll remember how he loved and I will remember the conversations we had and the pain he felt and I felt and how that became the pain we shared in many ways.”
Another friend, who got to know Hurley while the two were living in Denver 14 years ago and asked that her name not be included in this article, celebrated another side of him.
“I had a huge crush on him,” she wrote in message to Colorado Community Media. “He was quite the ladies man.”
“What everybody is saying about him is absolutely true,” that friend added. “He was exotic, funny and kind. You wouldn't expect anything less from him than to step up to the plate like he did.”
But if such a heroic act was expected from Hurley, it also encapsulated much of what was so special about this complicated and beloved Goldenite.
“He was very adamant against police violence yet he ran to save a police officer and that says so much,” Kaufman said, referencing witness reports shared in Denver media that Hurley shot the man who killed Arvada police officer Gordon Beesley that have not yet been substantiated by police. “With Johnny, it wasn't about your uniform, it was about the fact that you're a person.”
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