Colorado authorities were warned about gunman’s mental state

Tributes to a deputy killed in a shootout cover a patrol vehicle parked outside a Douglas County, Colo., Sheriffs Department substation Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. The deputy was killed and four other deputies were shot while responding to a call at a nearby apartment complex early Sunday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER (AP) — Colorado authorities were contacted with concerns about the mental health of Matthew Riehl over a month before he shot and killed a deputy and wounded four others. But the 37-year-old man was never held for a mental health evaluation.

Authorities say Riehl fired more than 100 rounds in his suburban Denver apartment before he was killed by a SWAT team on Sunday.

Wyoming College of Law students had been warned about Riehl, a former student, because of social media posts critical of professors at the school in Laramie, reported KTWO-AM in Casper, Wyoming.

A Nov. 6 email from Assistant College of Law Dean Lindsay Hoyt told students to notify campus police if they spotted Riehl or his car near campus. In addition, security on campus was increased for several days.

Related: 4 deputies wounded, 1 dead in Colorado attack

Campus officers called police in Lone Tree, Colorado, in mid-November to warn them about Riehl, suggesting his rants were indicative of mental illness, UW Police Chief Mike Samp told The Denver Post.

Samp said it’s possible that Colorado authorities faced the same issue as Wyoming officials when an apparently mentally ill, dangerous person makes indirect threats.

“Wyoming statutes are pretty clear: If someone is not making an immediate threat, they cannot be held for a mental evaluation. They are very tough cases,” Samp said.

Riehl, an attorney and an Iraq war veteran, had also posted videos criticizing Colorado law enforcement officers in profane, highly personal terms.

Early Sunday, authorities responded to a complaint of a verbal disturbance involving two men at an apartment building in Highlands Ranch, 16 miles (about 25 kilometers) south of Denver. A caller said Riehl was acting bizarre and might be having a mental breakdown, but responding deputies found no evidence of a crime and left.

When deputies were called back to the scene, a man who had left gave them a key and granted permission to enter the apartment.

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said deputies came under fire almost immediately after trying to talk with the suspect, who was holed up inside a bedroom.

“They all went down almost within seconds of each other, so it was more of an ambush-type of attack on our officers,” Spurlock said.

Related: 1 officer killed; 4 deputies and 2 other people shot during deadly domestic dispute

The wounded deputies tried to pull the fallen officer, Zackari Parrish, out of the line of further gunfire but were unable to because of their own injuries and only managed to “crawl to safety,” Spurlock said. Two civilians also were injured.

All of the wounded except Deputy Jeff Pelle, 32, have been treated at hospitals and released. The son of Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle was in fair condition.

Hundreds gathered Monday night for a candlelight vigil for Parrish inside Mission Hills Church in Littleton, Colorado — the church he attended with his wife and two young daughters.

“I’ve heard from so many different people that he just loved his community and being a police officer,” Mission Hills Pastor Craig Smith told KDVR-TV.

“Zack didn’t see law enforcement as a job. He saw it as a calling, as a way to serve his community and a blessing.”

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

WTNH NEWS8 provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Also, you can now block any inappropriate user by simple selecting the drop down menu on the right of any comment and selection "Block User" from there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s