Colo. capital gunman: 'No police are going to stop me'

By Fernando Quintero And Stuart Steers
The Rocky Mountain News

COLORADO State Trooper Jay Hemphill hustled the tuxedo-clad man from the governor's office as the man claimed to be the emperor and vowed to save the "unborn children" from the governor's office.

Hemphill grabbed a pen and a notepad to show Aaron Snyder he was listening to his concerns.

Minutes later, Snyder opened his tuxedo jacket to reveal a large gun in his right pants pocket, Hemphill told investigators.

"No police are going to stop me," he said.

Hemphill dropped the pen and pad. He drew his gun. He issued a loud command.

"Stop or I'll kill you."

Snyder did not stop, Hemphill told the investigators. He was about four feet away.

The officer fired four shots. Snyder "fell backward to the marble floor of the Capitol just to the right of the door to the governor's office," according to the report of the shooting, issued Friday. "He was dead at the scene."

Hemphill, a 12-year patrol veteran who had never fired his weapon in the line of duty, was asked whether he had thought he was in danger.

"I believe he could have killed me and killed the governor," Hemphill said.

The investigative report into the July 16 shooting, outlined in a 71-page letter released by Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, concluded that Hemphill was justified in using deadly force against Snyder, 32.

The report included documents that showed the extent of Snyder's mental illness.

In a March 30 application for a firearms training class at Rocky Mountain Shooters Supply, Snyder wrote that he had a history of mental illness and had experienced "depression and delusions."

In his journal, which was obtained by investigators, Snyder wrote of his plans to take over Washington, D.C.: "I shall march the Praetorian Guard into the deposed capitol to seize physical control of the city."

He wrote that he expected to one day become "Lord Governor of Christendom."

Snyder drew up a budget for his planned overthrow of the U.S. government. He estimated it would cost $97.5 million to outfit, equip and pay 300 soldiers, rent buses for the trip to Washington and purchase tanks and armored vehicles.

In his Day-Timer, Snyder makes several references to abortion. "It is my responsibility as sovereign ruler to stop abortion at once!" he wrote. "All women who have had abortions are pardoned."

A note left by Snyder on a page ripped from a ledger says: "God is preparing me mentally to kill thousands of police officers."

Several entries show Snyder struggling with inner demons. "I'm not a failure!" he writes, admonishing himself to pray daily and go to the gym.

On the day of the shooting, Snyder appears in surveillance video entering the west door of the Capitol at about 2 p.m. and walking into the governor's office five minutes later.

He spent some of the five minutes in the area just southeast of the governor's door and was observed kneeling by one of the benches used by tour groups. His hands and head were on the bench in a praying position.

Snyder was dressed in a black tuxedo and was carrying firing range earmuffs in his left hand. He said, "I am the emperor and I am here to take over the state of Colorado."

He added, "Abortion is an abomination."

The governor's receptionist, worried about Snyder's behavior, alerted Hemphill, according to the trooper's videotaped statement given to police investigators after the shooting.

Snyder seemed "focused and determined, like he had a mission and was going to complete it," Hemphill said.

After the shots, Hemphill "described himself as being in a state of shock."

A Denver police officer took him to the Denver Police Department, where he was sequestered in a room for five hours waiting to give his statement, according to the report.

A 19-year-old Capitol tour guide who witnessed the final seconds of the confrontation said, "I don't think (Hemphill) could believe he had done it."

"This was a terrible event for everyone involved," Gov. Ritter's spokesman Evan Dreyer said Friday. "However, the investigative report confirms that Agent Hemphill was legally justified in taking the actions that he did, as tragic as they were."

Aaron Snyder's writings reveal the level of his delusions. A sampling:


"I am the Lord Governor of Christendom ... Jesus has already seized the city of Washington D.C. in the spirit world and is keeping this country in the order of law until which time as I shall march the Praetorian Guard into the deposed capitol to seize physical control of the city."

"Christ Jesus overthrew the United States, the most wicked country in history, when he took away the U.S.'s sovereignty and transferred it to me, Aaron Richard Snyder."


"It is my responsibility as soverign ruler to stop abortion at once!:

"I found out last night that God does not want me to have the title 'Lord Governor.' My official title is emperor."

"Now that God has made me the emperor of His Christendom, I must never miss a prayer session again for the rest of my life."

"The emperor is absolutely forbidden by God to be rich."

"One of the first things I will do as emperor is to build a real lions den with savage bloodthirsty lions."

"I the emperor shall establish a firm decree that if any citizen of the empire shall worship me, they shall be put to death. Worship is only for God, and I AM NOT GOD."

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