The man suspected of opening fire on a sheriff’s deputy Sunday night remained hospitalized Monday, with charges pending, Montrose County Sheriff Gene Lillard said.
The shots fired struck the deputy’s patrol unit; the deputy was unhurt.
Shortly before 6 p.m. Sunday, March 26, the deputy responded to a disturbance call in the 62000 block of Jig Road. Lillard said a woman had called for assistance and in that call, mention was made of a firearm.
“That deputy was met with a volley of gunfire. This person meant business,” Lillard said Monday.
Lillard said his deputy hadn’t even gotten out of his patrol vehicle when a man with a long-barreled firearm approached and started shooting. The deputy returned fire, “incapacitating” the suspect, whom other responding deputies treated at the scene until paramedics arrived. They continued efforts while transporting him to Montrose Regional Health.
Lillard said the man was reportedly in stable condition there Monday.
“It happened very fast. I just thank the good Lord that our deputy is OK,” Lillard said Sunday, a few hours after the incident, which he characterized as “an actual gun battle.”
He did not identify the suspected shooter, because the man was not under arrest as of Monday afternoon — although charges are in the works — and is not yet releasing the deputy’s name.
The deputy is on paid administrative leave while the matter is investigated. Lillard said the deputy has worked with the MCSO for four years, three in corrections and the past year in patrol. The deputy has no disciplinary items on his record, Lillard said.
“This guy attacked him. He ambushed him,” Lillard alleged. “It was very traumatic for him. This suspect (allegedly) tried to kill him.”
As is the practice when there is an officer-involved shooting or certain other types of use of force, the 7th Judicial District Critical Incident Investigation Team deployed. Lillard also requested help from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which was on-scene overnight Sunday.
The local critical incident investigation team, or CIIT, is made up of law enforcement agency members within the judicial district, which encompasses Montrose, Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Ouray and San Miguel counties. Each year, one person is selected to head up the Critical Incident Team; this year’s commander is Montrose Police Sgt. Michelle Berry.
The MCSO will not be directly involved in the CIIT’s probe of Sunday’s shooting.
The district attorney’s office uses the CIIT findings and evidence to determine whether charges should be brought against the involved officer. The DA determines whether there has been a violation of law, or conduct that does not fall under self-defense.
Law enforcement agencies conduct their own internal affairs investigation to determine whether the involved officer violated or followed agency policy and procedures.
Lillard said situations like Sunday’s are always deeply concerning. “Our deputies know that risk is there every single day they put the uniform on and go out to serve our citizens. We don’t go out and look for a gunfight, but we won’t shy away if the time comes,” he said.
“What (suspect) did was very severe. He (allegedly) attempted to murder one of our deputies and we do not take that lightly by any means.”