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Douglas County

Newly released footage sheds more light on fatal shooting of deputy

Slain deputy heard speaking to gunman during a mental health call prior to shooting


Douglas County deputies were attempting to place the man who killed Deputy Zackari Parrish on a mental health hold while he reportedly was going through a "manic episode," according to a newly released video from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.

The agency released a video statement on Jan. 8, which includes audio recordings and excerpts from body camera footage of the Dec. 31 incident in which the suspect, 37-year-old Matthew Riehl, opened fire on authorities. It unveils new details about the shooting that left Parrish dead and four officers and two civilians injured. Riehl was shot to death by a regional SWAT team before the incident concluded after about two hours.

The wounded officers were Deputy Michael Doyle, 28; Deputy Taylor Davis, 30; Deputy Jeffrey Pelle, 32; and Tom O'Donnell, a Castle Rock police officer. Each was released from local hospitals by the night of Jan. 1, except for Pelle, who was expected to make a full recovery.

The video, narrated by Sheriff Tony Spurlock, shows the deputies responding twice to Riehl's Highlands Ranch apartment before the shooting took place - first on noise complaints and again on reports of a domestic disturbance.

"There's a lot of information out there. I would like for you to hear from me about what happened," Spurlock says in the first few minutes of the YouTube video.

The video does not include any audio or clear video of Riehl, but does show deputies interacting with him both through closed doors and face-to-face.

The body camera footage begins by showing deputies approaching Riehl's apartment at the Copper Canyon complex. Officers were first called to the apartment at 3 a.m. on a noise complaint, Spurlock said. They did not find evidence of a crime at the time, but are heard discussing Riehl's emotional state.

"I'm going to try and figure out how to calm him down," a deputy is heard saying.

The next clip shows a deputy speaking to a shadowy figure, presumably Riehl, sitting on the stairwell leading to Riehl's apartment, whom the officer addressed as "Matt." The individual's face is completely silhouetted.

"We're here because we want to make sure you're OK," the deputy says. "Do me a favor though, Matt. Next time, if you ever call us, try not to scream."

Then at 5:17 a.m., officers responded again to Riehl's residence on a domestic disturbance call, which they identified as a mental health call after arriving, Spurlock said.

"It's Deputy Parrish, Douglas County Sheriff's Office. Hey Matt, it's Zack," says Parrish after deputies knock on Riehl's door.

The video explains officers spent several minutes trying to assist Riehl before Parrish made the call to detain Riehl on an "M-1."

An "M-1" is a mental-health hold approved by the Colorado Department of Human Services that officials, including law enforcement, can use when "an individual's behavior is so risky that they need to be held in a hospital against their will," according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

"He's going through a manic episode," Parrish says in the recording while a man's frantic voice can be heard in the background. "We're going to take him."

Between 5:35 a.m. and 5:57 a.m. deputies worked on a plan to provide medical and mental health aid to Riehl, Spurlock said.

"At 5:57, this is what took place," Spurlock said. The video then cuts to audio of gunfire and multiple people yelling.

"Back up, back up, back up, back up, back up," a man is heard yelling over other voices and gunshots.

Spurlock explains as Riehl opened fire at the deputies, Parrish was shot and fell in a doorway, where he remained until the incident concluded at about 7:30.

Davis went out a window "head first" and deputies Doyle and Pelle were hit "immediately," but were able to leave the apartment through the front door. This is when the mental health call evolved into a crime, and Riehl became a suspect, Spurlock said.

"They made an attempt to get back in but the volley of gunfire was too much," Spurlock said of Doyle and Pelle before the video shows the two deputies running from the apartment.

"I'm shot in the chest," one deputy says after lying on the ground between neighboring apartment buildings.

"I'm shot in the arm and the leg," says the other while assisting his colleague on the ground. He's heard telling another individual that Davis is still inside.

A gunshot then rings out in the background.

"He's shooting out the window," a deputy says.

The deputies then run to another location where another gunshot pierces the air. For the next 90 minutes, Spurlock said, the suspect continued shooting and injured two civilians in adjacent apartments.

The next video clip shows an armed officer standing at the base of the stairwell to Riehl's apartment, looking up, when there is an explosion of rapid gunfire.

"Parrish, can you hear me," a man later yelled toward the apartment unit, to no response. More explosions of gunfire followed. It is not clear where the gunfire comes from.

At 7:30 a.m., Spurlock says, officers went into Riehl's apartment in an effort to rescue Parrish. Officers shot and killed Riehl in self-defense during that raid, Spurlock said, and also rescued the two injured civilians.

In a news conference the day of the shooting, Spurlock said doctors told him Parrish was shot multiple times and "had no ability" to survive his injuries.

A spokeswoman for the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said several officers were placed on paid administrative leave following the incident.

Riehl also livestreamed a Periscope video of himself in the hours leading up to and including the shootout with law enforcement. The sheriff's office spokeswoman said the video was taken down at the request of the sheriff's office and is now evidence in the case.

"I'm very proud of the officers and the men and women that were on that call that night. They did exactly what they were trained to do. They provided aid, they provided service, they provided care and compassion and unfortunately it turned violent. But I assure you," Spurlock said in his closing remarks, "we are committed to do whatever we can to (address) the mental health issues in the county and whatever we can do anywhere in this state."


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