Prosecutor: Slain Colorado deputy shot by car theft suspect
DENVER (AP) — A slain sheriff’s deputy and a seriously injured bystander were both shot by a 19-year-old man suspected of stealing a car as police tried to arrest the man, according to a review of the February shooting that has prompted questions about police tactics.
El Paso County District Attorney Dan May on Tuesday released his office’s review of the Feb. 5 attempted arrest in the parking lot of a Colorado Springs apartment complex that left El Paso County Sheriff’s Deputy Micah Flick dead, bystander Thomas Villanueva paralyzed from the chest down and three other law enforcement officers injured. The suspect, Manuel Zetina, also died from gunshot injuries.
The report provides the fullest account yet of the 34-year-old deputy’s death. Citing the review and other investigations, local law enforcement has released little information about the encounter.
The county’s coroner also has asked a judge to seal autopsy reports for Flick and Zetina, records that typically are open to the public.
The Colorado Springs Gazette and the Colorado Springs Independent have hired attorneys to argue against closing public access to the autopsy reports. Villanueva, the man shot while walking through the parking lot, also opposed the coroner’s request.
According to the report, Flick had one gunshot wound, showing the bullet entered near his throat and exited his back. The report says investigators believe Zetina shot Flick because soot and searing near the entrance wound suggests a close-range shot.
Flick’s blood also was found on Zetina’s gun, the report said.
The review only focused on whether the officers who fired were justified in using deadly force or should face criminal charges, and the report did not discuss tactics that the auto task force used in trying to arrest Zetina.
The three officers who shot at Zetina — El Paso County Sheriff Detectives Michael Boggs and Tremaine White and Colorado Springs Detective Marcus Yanez — will not face any charges, May said.
“Based on the law and the facts, the investigation has determined that their actions were justified under the law,” the report said.
According to the report, Flick and El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Detective Scott Stone were first to approach Zetina in the parking lot. As Zetina brushed up against him, Stone grabbed him in a “bear hug” and yelled “police,” the report said.
May said that was the first time any of the officers identified themselves as law enforcement. He said the officers were working undercover and did not have police insignia on their clothing but did wear protective gear and badges below their plainclothes.
The report said Zetina fired, shooting Stone in the left hip. Some officers told investigators that they saw Flick and Zetina begin struggling over Zetina’s gun while others described them as “wrestling on the ground” before Flick went still.
The officers said Zetina then “began to spray the parking lot with gunfire.” Investigators believe that’s when Villanueva was shot, based on DNA found on a bullet fired by Zetina’s gun. The report says officers could not see Villanueva in the area before deciding to arrest Zetina in the parking lot.
Yanez also was shot and a sergeant was struck by shrapnel. The three injured officers all survived.