On Sunday, December 31, 2017, over 100 rounds of ammunition were fired in a Denver suburb apartment. When the smoke cleared, six people were injured and two men were dead. Two days later, we are starting to get some answers about the man who ambushed police in Colorado, but many of those answers are creating more questions.
An Ambush and a Firefight
At 3 a.m., Sunday morning, deputies of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call about a noise complaint at the Copper Canyon Apartments in Highlands Ranch, a suburb of Denver, Colorado. One of the roommates in the apartment reportedly feared that another roommate might be in the midst of some sort of breakdown. However, when the police arrived, the noise had ended so no action was taken at that time.
At 5:35 a.m., the officers were called back for a domestic disturbance and let in by the roommate. The five men found the suspect had barricaded himself in his room. He quickly opened fire, unleashing multiple rounds from his rifle.
Four of the officers were wounded but managed to crawl away. However, the fifth, 29-year-old Zackari Parrish, was rendered unconscious by his wounds and couldn’t escape or be rescued until after the SWAT team arrived 90 minutes later. Parrish didn’t survive.
.@SheriffSpurlock names29-year-old Zackari Parrish, deputy and former CRPD officer killed in #CopperCanyonOIS. Our hearts our heavy today as we mourn the loss of one of our brothers. Thank you all for your support. https://t.co/kJKCYaZ7Uq pic.twitter.com/RmdB9CI5Tg
— DC Sheriff (@dcsheriff) December 31, 2017
The suspected gunman himself, 37-year-old Matthew Riehl, would later be killed in a shootout with the SWAT team.
Two civilians were also injured at some point in the incident.
Why Did this Happen?
Details on Riehl have now been making their way out to media and they paint two very different pictures of this troubled man.
Douglas County Coroner confirms shooting suspect in #CopperCanyonOIS as Matthew Riehl DOB 9/09/80 (pictured). Investigation still ongoing and being investigated by @DA18th Critical Response Team. pic.twitter.com/H6wT0klSQv
— DC Sheriff (@dcsheriff) January 1, 2018
Riehl had spent time as a lawyer, mainly in Wyoming. It was also in Wyoming that Riehl joined up with the Wyoming National Guard in 2006. He would go on to do a tour of duty in Iraq in 2009 and was honorably discharged in 2012. By all accounts, a man who served his country and had a sense of duty. His firearms instructor said that Riehl’s “demeanor during the training sessions was not alarming.”
But Riehl’s online history shows a different side to the shooter. From rambling threats made to the University of Wyoming’s (Riehl’’s law school) on Facebook, to YouTube videos about Sheriff Spurlock, the local police, and “fake police,” to harassing e-mail messages to local law enforcement, there were certainly signs that something was going on with Riehl. In addition to the Sheriff’s office, the focus in many of Riehl’s recent rants seems to be a traffic stop a few miles east of the apartment in which he lived.
It’s being reported that the suspect live-streamed some footage of the incident that day, before and after police entered his residence. However, the videos have been taken down from social media.
What happened? Is this a case of a man with a mission or an unfortunate case of PTSD that was left untreated? These are questions yet to be answered as the investigation continues.
Victim’s Family in Mourning
On January 1, 2018, a vigil was held at Mission Hills Church in Littleton, Colorado in honor of slain deputy Parrish. Parrish leaves behind his wife, Gracie Parrish, and two young daughters. He had only been with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office for seven months.
At tonight’s candlelight vigil to honor and remember Deputy Zackari Parish, there were three common themes: he loved God, he loved his family, and loved being a Law Enforcement officer… in that order. We need more men like this in world… He will be dearly missed. pic.twitter.com/bPGrenMbto
— DC Sheriff (@dcsheriff) January 2, 2018