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Denver police officials say officers 'missed' gun in searches before handcuffed suspect fired shots

Posted at 4:55 PM, Dec 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-01 18:55:56-05

DENVER — Denver’s police chief and a department spokesperson said Thursday they believe one or more officers “missed” a handgun during the search of a man who allegedly shot an officer in the neck Monday while he was handcuffed and about to be processed into jail.

Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas and Commander Matt Clark provided an update Thursday afternoon on the incident that happened Monday night inside the sally port at the Downtown Detention Center and said the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau would be investigating whether any policies were violated that allowed the suspect to apparently keep hold of a gun after he was arrested.

Daniel Cheeseman, 32, remains in the hospital in critical condition after being shot multiple times by a Denver Police Department corporal after Cheeseman allegedly shot the officer.

The officer, who has not been identified, was released from the hospital the morning after the shooting, Thomas said the officer appears to have only suffered a flesh wound in the shooting but said if the bullet had been slightly in another direction, “it could have been a much more significant injury.” He said the officer is expected to make a full recovery and is currently at home.

Denver police update on shooting involving handcuffed suspect

A probable cause statement for Cheeseman’s arrest obtained by Denver7 on Wednesday and statements from Thomas and Clark Thursday provide further insight from police about what allegedly transpired Monday night that led to the shooting.

However, the officer who was shot in the sally port has not been interviewed by investigators yet, and neither has Cheeseman because he is still in the hospital, Clark said.

Clark said on Monday, the District 4 impact team involved in auto thefts and recoveries had spotted a stolen Ford F-250 sitting in the middle of the road near Kentucky Ave. and Lowell Blvd., which came back as being stolen out of Aurora.

Some officers in unmarked police vehicles, along with other officers in plainclothes and nondescript vehicles, followed the driver southbound when he took off, Clark said. Officers tried to stop him near Arkansas and Perry, but he drove off and the unmarked vehicles backed off, Clark said.

But undercover officers kept an eye on the vehicle, and when it stopped near Iowa Avenue and Lowell Boulevard, uniformed officers approached, according to the probable cause statement and Clark. Cheeseman ran but was arrested shortly afterward, Clark said.

An officer handcuffed Cheeseman, but he was still wearing a backpack. Officers briefly removed the backpack and re-handcuffed him, according to Clark, who said that one officer searched Cheeseman and put him in a patrol vehicle, while another officer searched his backpack.

Clark said officers found a Sig Sauer 9mm handgun inside the backpack as well as suspected fentanyl.

Two uniformed officers transported Cheeseman to the jail’s sally port. After some time, one of the officers opened the rear driver’s side door and briefly got Cheeseman out of the vehicle before sitting him back down, Clark said.

That officer was directly in front of Cheeseman in the doorway, while the officer’s partner was to the left, next to the driver’s-side door.

Clark said that “without warning,” Cheeseman leaned to his right while still handcuffed and fired four shots from a handgun, hitting the officer in the doorway once in the neck.

A corporal who was in the passenger seat of another vehicle to the left of the vehicle Cheeseman was in, almost directly in the line of fire of Cheeseman, according to Clark and the probable cause statement. The corporal got out of the vehicle and moved to the other side of the vehicle Cheesman was in, according to the probable cause statement, and fired his weapon through the window at Cheesman nine times.

Both the probable cause statement and Clark say the vehicle the corporal had been in was hit by bullets. Officers also recovered the gun Cheeseman allegedly used in the shooting – a Smith and Wesson MP Shield 9mm that was stolen in Denver in September, according to Clark. Cheeseman allegedly fired it four times, according to police.

Clark said there was no firearm in the vehicle when Cheeseman was placed inside of it.

Both the officer and Cheeseman were taken to Denver Health Medical Center.

Cheeseman was arrested for investigation of possession of more than 50 grams of fentanyl with intent to distribute, motor vehicle theft and possession of a weapon by a previous offender in one case, and for investigation of two counts of attempted first-degree murder of a peace officer and possession of a weapon by a previous offender in the shooting case, according to records.

He also had an open warrant for failing to appear in court in a case in Jefferson County last year. He is expected to make his first court appearance once he is released from the hospital.

Clark said the Colorado Bureau of Investigation is leading the investigation into the shooting, along with assistance from Colorado State Patrol, DPD’s homicide unit and the Denver District Attorney’s Office, which will be overseen by the Office of the Independent Monitor.

Clark said the full incident would be reviewed to see who conducted searches and where issues occurred that led to officers missing the gun. Thomas said that internal affairs investigation will happen after the investigation into the shooting is complete.