Few details have emerged about the death of Paige Schmidt Pierce, who was fatally shot during a traffic pursuit near Hotchkiss on Friday.
Schmidt, 26, of Austin, died at the scene, in the 29000 block of Colorado 92. The Delta County Sheriff’s Office deputy who shot her has been placed on paid administrative leave, in accordance with policy, and the agency is not identifying him or her until an investigation is complete.
Circumstances surrounding the chase were not immediately available. Family and friends who established “Justice for Paige” on Facebook consider the shooting unnecessary, stating she was “fleeing police by car when police decided to open fire and shoot her instead of arresting Paige.”
On the page, her brother said Schmidt was not a violent person and the encounter did not have to end the way it did.
The page administrators asked the DCSO and District Attorney’s Office to investigate what happened “with honesty and transparency.”
Delta County Sheriff Mark Taylor in a news release said he is committed to full transparency once the investigation is complete.
He said he will not release the name of the involved officer until the 7th Judicial District Critical Incident Team completes its review of what happened and submits its final report to the DA, and the DA then reports his finding as to whether the use of force was warranted and whether charges are justified.
Taylor and Delta County Coroner Lance Boren asked the public to respect the privacy of Schmidt’s family and for the involved deputy, “by letting the investigation conclude.”
Law enforcement agency heads request the critical incident team when there is deadly use of force or attempted deadly use of force. The team is made up of people with agencies in the 7th Judicial District and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
“We’re fact-finding. We gather all the information related to an incident and present it to the District Attorney’s Office,” said Billy Stroup of the Montrose Police Department, who is lead coordinator for the team.
In addition to his position, there is a co-lead coordinator. For each incident, team members select a lead investigator and co-lead investigator.
There is no set timeframe for the completion of such investigations, as each incident and its circumstances differ. The goal is to be timely, but also to be detailed, thorough, and present a complete investigation, Stroup said.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.