Video shows Colo. deputy talking to gunman before fatal shooting

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office released the video to explain what happened before Deputy Zackari Parrish was killed

By Noelle Phillips
The Denver Post

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. — At 5:17 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, Douglas County sheriff’s Deputy Zackari Parrish spoke to the man who — in less than 45 minutes — would become his killer, on a first-name basis.

“Hey, Matt. It’s Zack,” Parrish said through a closed apartment door. “Yes, we can help you. I’m with the sheriff’s office. Right here, man. We can talk out here. I want to make sure you’re OK.”

But Matthew Riehl, the man behind the door at the Copper Canyon Apartments in Highlands Ranch, refused to open it, and Parrish and his fellow deputies made the decision to take Riehl into custody on a mental health hold, according to a video released Monday by Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock.

But Riehl opened fire on the deputies through his bedroom door when they returned minutes later.

Spurlock released the video to explain what happened in the early morning hours of Dec. 31 when Parrish died and three other deputies and a Castle Rock police officer were wounded in a shootout.

The video provided new information about the shooting, including that Parrish and his fellow deputies had intended to place an M1, or mental health, hold on Riehl when they re-entered his apartment just before 6 a.m.

Throughout the video, Spurlock delivered a narration of body camera footage from his deputies, which had been edited to remove the most graphic footage of the attack. Also, all audio and video of the shooter had been cut. Spurlock never called the shooter by name. Instead, he referred to him as “citizen” and “suspect.”

Deputy Involved Shooting Message

Since the Copper Canyon Apartments Officer-Involved Shooting, the biggest unanswered question has been, “what happened.” With permission and support from the Zackari Parrish family, as well as that of the injured deputies and their families, this video is intended to communicate directly with the employees of the Sheriff’s Office, Douglas County and the communities we serve and to you about what happened in the early morning hours of Sunday, December 31. Using body cam video and audio from deputies who were directly involved in the shooting, the video allows the viewer to hear the compassion with which Zackari Parrish interacted with the citizen, the attempts at helping the citizen, the storm of gunfire that deputies encountered from the citizen, and the attempts at a rescue of our deputy. In the production of this video, we have removed all images and audio of the suspect, being sensitive to the families involved, our employees and members of our community impacted by this tragedy. Because the video contains images and sounds from actual Law Enforcement Body Worn Cameras, viewer discretion is advised.

Posted by Douglas County Sheriff's Office on Monday, January 8, 2018

Spurlock also repeatedly thanked his deputies for their work and offered sympathy to the Parrish family.

“I’m very proud of the officers — the men and women — who were on that call that night,” Spurlock said. “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.”

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office community response team had made multiple visits to the apartment in the weeks leading up to the shooting, Spurlock said. And law enforcement was investigating the shooter for disturbing emails he had been sending to Lone Tree Police Department officers.

On the morning of the shooting, deputies visited the apartment at 3 a.m. and at 5:17 a.m. after the suspect called 911 each time, said Lauren Lekander, a Douglas County sheriff’s spokeswoman.

At 3 a.m., deputies, who were not named, told the shooter they were there to make sure he was OK.

At that point in the sheriff’s video, Spurlock said, “It was clear he was in need and we were trying to give it to him.”

At 5:17 a.m., deputies returned, and the suspect again refused to let them inside. Parrish then told Deputy Taylor Davis, “We’re going to take him.” When she asked “What for?” Parrish said, “For an M1.”

At 5:35 a.m., the deputies retreated to plan their next steps, Spurlock said in the video. Parrish and Davis along with Deputies Mike Doyle and Jeff Pelle then returned to the apartment. They entered using a key Riehl’s roommate had given them, Lekander said.

“At 5:57, this is what took place, ” Spurlock said.

The video cut to audio of rapid gunfire and the image of a bullet-riddled door. Deputies were heard screaming, “Back up! Back up! Back Up!”

“Deputy Parrish was shot and fell in a doorway,” Spurlock said. “Taylor went out a window head first. And Mike and Jeff were also hit immediately and they went out the front door.”

Despite being shot, the other deputies tried to go back inside but could not because of gunfire, Spurlock said.

As Doyle and Pelle laid on the ground searching themselves for injuries, the shooter fired again in rapid bursts. They scrambled for cover.

One deputy called out, “I’m shot in the arm and leg, sarge,” as he frantically tried to open the other’s ballistic vest to check for a chest wound.

“You’re OK. You’re OK,” he said. “I don’t see blood.”

Then, “Oh, I see blood!”

A barrage of bullets continued. Those rounds hit two people who lived in nearby apartments, the sheriff said.

One deputy continued talking to the other, “I gotcha, buddy. I gotcha. You’re OK. You’re going to be all right.”

During one pause in the gunfire, a deputy yells, “Parrish! Can you hear me?” There was no audible answer.

At 7:30 a.m., a regional SWAT unit of officers from the Castle Rock, Lone Tree and Parker police departments and the sheriff’s office went to rescue Parrish and the two civilians who had been shot. Castle Rock police Officer Tom O’Donnell was wounded as SWAT entered the apartment.

“In defending ourselves, we shot and killed the suspect,” Spurlock said.

Parrish was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The shooter also recorded the visits that night.

In one video posted, he told a 911 dispatcher he had guns and had been drinking. He told them he did not plan to use the weapons.

In his video of the shootout, broadcast over the social media site, Periscope, the shooter shouted, “Go away! Go away! Don’t come in! I’ve warned you.”

As soon as deputies identified themselves, the suspect started firing. Later, he shouted, “They broke my door! Oh, my God! Why? Why? Why? Leave me alone!”

At the end of the sheriff’s video, Spurlock thanked the community for its support. He also pledged to do his best to continue working on improving mental health care in the community.

“I assure you that the men and women of this office, in conjunction with all of our partners, we are committed to do whatever we can to (address) the mental health issues in this county and whatever we can do anywhere in this state,” Spurlock said. “This department is hurting and this community is hurting.”

©2018 The Denver Post

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