Suspect in shooting that left deputy dead was known to law enforcement
iStock/Thinkstock(DENVER) — The suspect in a shooting that left one Colorado sheriff’s deputy dead and four others wounded was a man known to local law enforcement for rants against “dirty cops” and the local sheriff that he posted online, officials said.
The Douglas County Coroner’s office identified the suspect as Matthew Riehl, 37, and said the investigation is ongoing.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s department had been monitoring Riehl’s YouTube page because he had been tagging them in his postings, officials said.
The shooting, in which the suspect was also killed, occurred after police responded to a call about a disturbance at an apartment complex in an affluent suburban county outside of Denver, authorities said.
Two other people living in adjacent apartments in the complex were also shot in the incident, police said. Except for the deputy who was killed, none of the other victims suffered life-threatening injuries, Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said at a press conference on Sunday afternoon.
Deputy Zackari Parrish, 29, had been on the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office as a sheriff’s deputy for only seven months after transferring from Castle Rock Police Department.
Parrish was a father with two children, and a “good kid, a smiley kid” who was “eager to work and eager to serve,” Spurlock said.
“When I sat with his wife and held her hand, I could see in her eyes that the life they planned together was over,” he said.
Spurlock also said that until Sunday, he has had deputies “run over” and shot “and they survived.”
“It was difficult to see Zack for the last time,” he said.
The sheriff said that from talking to Parrish’s widow, it seemed that being a deputy was special for him.
“He loved this job more than any job he ever had,” he said.
The shootings occurred after deputies responded to a call at about 5:15 a.m. to what they thought was a domestic problem at the Copper Canyon Apartment complex, but which turned out to be a disturbance unrelated to any domestic dispute.
“It wasn’t a husband-wife or partner type of thing,” he said.
The sheriff added that it was the second call to address located at 3404 East County Line Road in Highland Park four hours earlier for a noise disturbance call, but he said when they arrived “there was no noise” and “they couldn’t find any evidence there was any issue going on.”
He said on the second call, “the suspect made a ton of noise” and four officers arrived at the same time to investigate what was originally believed to be a domestic disturbance.
“They went into the house at the same time,” Spurlock said. He said they were let in by a male tenant who lived with the barricaded suspect.
The officers attempted to talk to the man who was making the noise, and Spurlock said they were even talking and “asking him questions” before he “barricaded himself.”
“It was almost immediately after that ‘that the suspect inside a bedroom with a weapon, which Spurlock would only characterize as a rifle,'” started firing on the officers.
“All of them were shot very, very quickly,” he said. “They all went down.”
The sheriff said the suspect fired around 100 bullets. He described the attack as an ambush, because the suspect knew they were coming in to investigate the disturbance.
“It was more of an ambush-type attack on our officers,” he said. “He knew we were coming, and we obviously let him know we were there to investigate the disturbance.”
The officers were all shot and “went down within seconds of each other,” but only four of them were able to “crawl to safety,” Spurlock said.
Parrish was apparently “not conscious,” and he was also shot multiple times, Spurlock said.
“When he was shot and the other officers went down around him and they tried to pull him out but were unable to, [he] continued to shoot at the officers over Zack.”
He said the rifle-firing suspect didn’t have any known rap sheet but “had encounters with law throughout [Denver] metro area.”
The other officers who survived Sunday morning were Deputy Mike Doyle, 28; Deputy Sheriff Taylor Davis, 30; Deputy Jeffrey Pelle, 32; and 41-year-old Castle Rock Police Officer Tom O’Donnell. All are listed in stable condition, Spurlock said.
Pelle is the son of Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle.
In a statement, Sheriff Pelle and his wife, Stephanie, confirmed that their son was “was shot during the Copper Canyon shooting.” He underwent surgery “as a result of his injuries, and is recovering,” the statement read.
“He is in good spirits considering the gravity and severity of what occurred earlier this morning,” they said in the statement. “Our hearts ache for all those involved, and we are not only praying for Jeff’s recovery, but for the recovery of everyone involved and for the family of the fallen deputy.”
Pelle and his fellow officers were all wearing vests, Spurlock said, but somehow the “rounds struck them outside where the vests cover.”
He maintained that attempts were made to evacuate residents to safety, despite the fact that the suspect shot two civilians who lived in neighboring apartment units.
“I know officers were working to get residents on either side of the [suspect’s] apartment evacuated,” Spurlock said.
He added that there were tactical units and even snipers readying for the off-chance that the suspected gunman attempted to escape.
Investigators are questioning the suspect’s roommate, who Spurlock said was being cooperative.
They are also expected to review body-cam footage and question the officers about the deadly incident after they are released from the hospital.
As the incident was still unfolding, police asked people to avoid the area and for those nearby to shelter in place.
As a tribute to Parrish, a hearse bearing the American flag left Littleton Hospital trailed by a convoy of law enforcement SUVs and cruisers with their lights on.
The scene was videotaped and posted on the Douglas County sheriff’s Facebook page under the heading: “Motorcade for our fallen deputy.”
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