CORTEZ, Colo. — An officer with the Cortez Police Department was killed while responding to a traffic stop on Wednesday morning.
He was identified as Sgt. Michael Moran.
In a statement sent to Denver7, the Cortez Police Department, which has 31 certified officers, said Moran was an 11-year veteran of the force and had two daughters.
"Sgt. Michael Moran served his country as a Marine for 9 years, including two tours in Iraq, prior to joining the Cortez Police Department in 2012. As a new officer, Sgt. Moran rose quickly through the ranks, becoming a K-9 handler in 2016. He was most proud of his canine partner Otto who served by his side until retiring in 2020. Sgt. Michael Moran will be remembered by his fellow officers for his dedication and sense of humor. He leaves behind two daughters, many friends, and family," the statement read.
The incident began around 11:25 a.m. Wednesday, when the police department received a reckless driving complaint, said Cortez Police Chief Vernon Knuckles. Sgt. Moran responded to the area and initiated a traffic stop.
Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin said the suspect vehicle pulled over near the Handy Mart on S. Broadway in southwest Cortez. One of the suspects opened fire at Sgt. Moran almost as soon as he was pulled over. Moran was able to return fire but the suspect fled in the car.
Moran was transported to Southwest Memorial Hospital, where he died, Chief Knuckles said.
Sheriff Nowlin said there were "plenty" of witnesses in the area who saw the shooting.
He said the suspects drove between 3/4 and 1 mile away before they encountered more officers, plus deputies from the Montezuma County Sheriff's Office, on private property around the 7500 block of Highway 491.
There, a suspect and officers fired at each other, police said, adding this happened within minutes of the previous traffic stop. One of the suspects died at the scene and the second was taken into custody.
On Thursday morning, Sheriff Nowlin confirmed that while there were two suspects, only one was involved in the shooting. He said the suspect who died was the same one who fired at Moran.
On Saturday, officials identified the suspect as 44-year-old Jason Campbell of Ogden, Utah. The subject inside the car at the time of the shooting was interviewed and released.
Flags around Cortez, located in southwest Colorado, were lowered to half-staff to honor the officer's service and the police department.
Anybody with information about this incident is asked to contact the Cortez Police Department and the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch at 970-565-8441.
No other details were immediately available.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis released a statement after learning about the line-of-duty death:
“I am saddened to hear of the tragic passing of the Cortez Police Officer in the line of duty. My thoughts and prayers are with their family, as well as the Cortez Police Department and the community during this time. This officer dedicated their career to serving and protecting their community."