Report: Man who opened fire in custody searched 3 times prior

Isaac Vigil, 32, opened fire as he was exiting the back seat of a patrol car

By Amanda Kost, Phil Tenser
The Denver Channel 

DENVER — Officers tried to frisk a suspect three times, even knocking a knife from his waistband, but failed to find a gun the suspect allegedly used to shoot at the officers. Luckily, the District Attorney says the suspect's gun jammed during the shootout.

Authorities said Isaac Vigil, 32, opened fire as he was exiting the back seat of a patrol car outside the District 4 Police Station on May 14. An officer returned fire, wounding Vigil.

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey announced Monday in a public letter to Police Chief Robert White that no charges will be filed against the officer. The letter contains many new details about the case and the searches that preceded the shootout.

When the shooting first occurred, CALL7 Investigator John Ferrugia reported that sources said arresting officers missed the gun in Vigil's pants because of an "inadequate frisk." The new letter from Morrissey's office reveals officers actually tried to frisk Vigil three times.

The first was after officers allegedly saw him "getting high" in a car outside a fast food restaurant in the 300 block of South Elliot Street. The team approached Vigil and a detective described him as "very jumpy, talking, yelling at us -- cussin' us."

"The detectives attempted to frisk Vigil at this time but had difficulty because Vigil was highly agitated and, in Detective Robledo's words, 'squirrelly.'"

During that first attempt to frisk Vigil, a knife allegedly fell from Vigil's wasteband.

Because of the way Vigil was acting, the letter says, detectives got on the phone and requested a uniformed officer to pick him up. The plainclothes detectives' cars did not have prisoner cages to transport him to headquarters.

The detectives wrestled Vigil to the ground and completed the first search. They found a bank card in his name and a crack pipe.

They then checked Vigil's records and found an outstanding warrant for his arrest from Adams County. Court records show that warrant involves failure to appear in court on a case where he's charged with two counts of felony menacing with a weapon and one count of illegal weapon possession by a convicted felon.

Then came the second search.

"Because of the way Vigil was acting and the nature of the warrant, the detectives searched him again," Morrissey's letter states.

The letter doesn't say if the officers found anything in the second search, but it does say they also searched his car.

After finding several small caliber cartridges in his car, officers decided to search Vigil for a third time.

When another officer arrived in a marked patrol car, Vigil was loaded into the back and driven to Denver Police Department's District Four Headquarters. Throughout the ride, the officer said Vigil was "squirming" and making threats. Vigil also allegedly said he'd been smoking meth for three days.

When officers ordered Vigil to get out of the car at the police station he allegedly replied, "Man! You're gonna hear a 'pop!' You're gonna hear 'pop!'"

They reached in to pull Vigil out and heard a gunshot. Vigil's hands were cuffed behind his back but he was holding a silver gun and pointing it toward a detective.

Vigil was able to fire two shots before being wounded by a shot fired by Corporal John Sisneros, the letter indicates. Vigil was struck by a bullet that went "through and through" his abdomen.

"Almost immediately after Cpl. Sisneros fired he heard Vigil cry "Okay, I’m done,'" the letter states.

After the standoff, the letter says officers found a round had "stove-piped," or jammed, inside Vigil's .25 caliber Raven Arms semi-automatic pistol. It contained three more live rounds, but he was unable to fire them.

"Cpl. Sisneros responded quickly and courageously to an "active shooter" situation unfolding in what most people would believe to be a relatively safe area — a secured parking lot of a police station staffed by armed and trained law enforcement officers," Morrissey's letter concludes.

The letter also indicates that Vigil had hidden baggies containing more than three grams of methamphetamine in his rectum.

While the District Attorney determined the officers were not legally at fault for shooting Vigil, the Denver Police Department's internal investigation is ongoing, pending the criminal case against Vigil.

Reprinted with permission from The Denver Channel.

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