"We do the bear hug and just grab him," El Paso County Sheriff's Detective John Watts told an investigator about an hour after Deputy Micah Flick was killed, about 4 p.m. on Feb. 5, in a shootout with an auto theft suspect.
"Immediately the guy pulls a gun," Watts continues on page 286 of the 907-page report, referring to the suspect, Manuel Zetina, 19, who was killed in the shootout. "The rest of us are approaching obviously at this time and a shot is fired and I start to draw my weapon.... I can’t tell you how many shots were fired then in a matter of a second, I mean multiple. As soon as they grabbed him, they were yelling police, police, police.”
Courtesy El Psao County Sheriff's Office
Deputy Micah Flick
But the 10 members of the multi-agency Beat Auto Theft Through Law Enforcement (BATTLE) task force didn't yell police before Deputy Scott Stone grabbed Zetina. Nor did they have visible police insignia showing or badges displayed, according to officers and witnesses interviewed by police that day.
All of which verifies the Independent
's June 20 account based on interviews
with officers and witnesses, which raised questions about the tactics of sneaking up on a suspect
and taking him by surprise rather than announcing their presence with guns drawn.
The long-awaited report was released Sept. 5 by the Colorado Springs Police Department, which investigated the incident although the CSPD itself had officers involved in the shooting
The report about the shooting, at Murray Hill Apartments, Galley Road and Murray Boulevard, comes 15 days after District Attorney Dan May issued his report
on Aug. 21 concluding no criminal charges are warranted.
Although May's report didn't assess tactics of the operation, it confirmed the Indy
's prior report that Zetina was given no obvious warning that it was police officers grabbing him from behind.
Besides the death of Flick, the mission to capture Zetina after he was spotted driving driving a stolen 1999 Saturn resulted in injury to three officers — Sheriff's Deputy Scott Stone and Sgt. Jake Abendschan and Police Detective Marcus Yanez — and paralysis of a civilian, Thomas Villanueva, 28
. He's filed a notice of claim, a standard step in the process toward filing a lawsuit.
Only three officers returned fire after Zetina produced a handgun, after Stone grabbed him. Those were Sheriff's Detectives Trey White and Mike Boggs and Yanez.
The suspect vehicle the task force tracked for hours before the shooting. It started out green but was spray painted blue by Zetina.
Police Detective Phil Tollefson writes in his report of an interview conducted at 5:15 p.m. the day of the shooting that CSPD Sgt. Kevin Miyakusu, who with State Patrol Detective John Reindollar ran the operation that day, reported that "After the first shot was fired, he [Miyakusu] and Reindollar unholstered their guns."
Miyakusu also told Tollefson he didn't know the name of Zetina when they tracked him for four hours that day. (Zetina's record shows three stops for minor offenses during which he never attempted to flee or harm officers.)
Miyakusu described how Zetina rifled through the trunk of the car when it was parked in another location that day, appearing to be "frantic." But he added that "he did not believe he [Zetina] knew the police were there.”
Deputy Scott Stone was seriously injured on Feb. 5.
Later, at the Murray Hill Apartments, Miyakusu recounted to Tollefson that he and Reindollar "were trying to ascertain whether or not they were going to try and contact him while he was there, wait for him to go to the car or what."
When Tollefson asked Miyakusu if he had his badge displayed, "He stated no. He stated that when they roll up with other police gear, he said typically suspects look and say oh there’s the police. He said typically they are able to get close enough and grab the suspect. He stated he didn’t pull his badge out until afterwards and he had no idea what happened when the other officers made contact with the suspect."
Sheriff's Detective Stephanie Criss told an investigator that she saw Villanueva before the shooting started but the operation was afoot at that time and soon Zetina, who earlier was described as wearing a shirt with the number "13" on it, pulled a gun and started shooting.
"She said that as she saw the motor vehicle theft suspect reaching towards his waistband, she was thinking in her head surely that the suspect was not going to be pulling a gun," the police report says based on an investigator's interview of Criss. "She said that after that, people just began falling. She said that she was also aware that Detective Flick fell as well as Detective Stone. She said that she also saw this white male [Villanueva] that she had talked about earlier, falling right in front of her."
Criss described the scene as "chaos" and broke down a couple of times during the interview, demonstrating the emotional toll the shooting took on law enforcement officers. At least one other officer, who had blood on both hands after tending to Flick, was described during an investigator interviews as "crying and distraught."
Thomas Villanueva, middle, with friends before the Feb. 5 incident.
The first uniformed sheriff's deputy on scene after the shooting, Jason Haag, told Tollefson that he "removed the weapon from the holster on Deputy Flick’s belt, as well as the radio, and set them on the curb line nearby so medical folks could load Deputy Flick into the ambulance.”
Within minutes, dozens of police officers swarmed the complex parking lot and tended to traffic control, preservation of evidence and identifying witnesses.
Underscoring the potential risk to which the public was subjected by the task force mission, Officer Mario Aoki wrote in his report that while conducting traffic control immediately after the shooting, "two school girls approximately 12 years of age [were] returning from school [and] attempted to return home toward the Murray Hill Apartments. I informed the girls the access was blocked at this time." Officer Aoki called their mother who came to get them from her apartment, and then initially was barred from returning, although her two sons remained there. The family was eventually reunited.
Several witnesses described seeing "males" in the parking lot who didn't appear to be police officers. They described a hail of gunfire ranging from five to nine rounds.
Michael DeRossett told police "he did not see any badges or police insignia at any time," the report said. "Michael stated he only assumed the people outside and involved were police officers after the shots were fired because of how fast they [police] arrived on scene.”
El Paso County Coroner Robert Bux has petitioned the District Court seeking to have autopsy reports of Flick and Zetina sealed. The Indy, Gazette
and other media outlets are opposing the petition.