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Timeline of fatal Douglas County police ambush; investigation will take days

Posted at 9:41 AM, Jan 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-02 00:20:38-05

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo — The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is still working to piece together the events that led up to a deadly shootout between police and a man with a rifle.

That shootout happened at the Copper Canyon apartment complex on New Year’s Eve. One deputy, Zackari Parrish, was killed. Four other officers and two civilians were also injured.

In a press conference, Sheriff Tony Spurlock said the shooting happened very quickly and that the deputies were ambushed by a suspect who knew they were coming.

Timeline of Events

3 a.m: Douglas County dispatch received a call reporting a verbal disturbance at the Copper Canyon apartments. Deputies responded to the scene and spoke with two men. One man claimed the other, Matthew Riehl, was acting strangely and seemed to be having a mental breakdown.

3:44 a.m.: Deputies left the apartment when they could find no evidence that a crime had been committed.

5:14 a.m.: Deputies were called back to the scene.

5:17 a.m.: The first deputy arrived at the apartment complex.

5:35 a.m.: Three additional deputies arrived at the apartment complex. They were given the keys to Riehl’s apartment and given permission to enter.

5:56 a.m.: Riehl opened fire with a rifle after barricading himself inside his bedroom, hitting all four deputies. Officers returned backed out of the apartment. However, Deputy Parrish was not able to retreat. He had been hit multiple times and stopped responding to radio calls. He passed away. Deputies Michael Doyle, Taylor Davis, and Jeffrey Pelle were also shot.

7:30 a.m.: SWAT entered the apartment and exchanged fire with Riehl. Officer Thomas O’Donnell was shot. The suspect was killed.

The Investigation

Sheriff Spurlock said the investigation would take some time to complete because of all of the evidence that needs to be gathered.

“There were well over 100 rounds fired in this engagement. The 100 rounds were from the suspect,” Spurlock said.

Part of the investigation will include determining the number of weapons the suspect used and whether they legally belonged to him.

“We do know that it was a rifle—and other than that I can’t tell you,” Spurlock said.

Officials didn’t go into many details about the suspect because they were waiting for the coroner’s office to positively identify the body. However, Spurlock believes the man was known by police.

“If it’s who we believe it is—we know that he’s had law enforcement contact on a number of occasions,” Spurlock said. “I was told just moments ago that there was no criminal history [but] he has had encounters with law enforcement throughout the metro area.”

The investigation will likely also include interviews with the officers and any witnesses as well as the man who reported to police that he believed the suspect was suffering from a mental breakdown.

“We will hopefully get some body-cam footage. That will help me answer some of those questions,” Spurlock said.

Investigators might also look into a video the suspect posted on YouTube just two weeks before the deadly confrontation where he ranted against the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and promised to run as a Libertarian candidate against Sheriff Spurlock.

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