- 2006 Michael de Yoanna
- Anita Carrillo says police mistakenly arrived at her apartment looking for a suspected murderer.
Within seconds of walking into an apartment she co-manages, Dana Souligny's eyes redden and water. The unit is part of a complex into which police fired powerful tear gas grenades in efforts to flush out an alleged murderer.
"My nose burns," she says, hacking and coughing, waving her arm about, as she enters the space. "It's like it was fired yesterday."
It's been a month since Colorado Springs police snatched an accused murderer from the modest four-building apartment complex at 114 E. Ramona Ave., on the crime-ridden south side of Colorado Springs.
But the Feb. 4 siege, in which an estimated 30 officers contributed to the arrest of Raymond Eugene Munoz, has left some residents of the complex reeling.
Munoz, a 35-year-old self-employed mechanic, lived next door to the complex, in a squat building still decorated with Christmas lights.
He and an accomplice, Ruben Rodriguez, are accused of bursting into Ronald W. Bohnert's west side home with a sawed-off shotgun, a knife and possibly other weapons on the night of Feb. 3.
Shortly after, Munoz and Rodriguez allegedly were seen fleeing the 33-year-old Bohnert's residence as Bohnert beckoned a friend to call 911. He bled to death from apparent stab wounds, according to eyewitness accounts in recently unsealed court records.
One witness told police the incident was an act of revenge resulting from a fight between Munoz and Bohnert just a day prior to the murder.
A bad tip At about 7:30 a.m. on Feb. 4, five hours before the standoff with Munoz began, police arrived at the apartment complex looking for Munoz.
But they amassed at unit No. 2 in a building that sits diagonal from Munoz's unit No. 7 poised at the front door with a battering ram, says unit No. 2 resident Anita Carrillo.
"I saw them coming to the door and opened it before they could knock it down," Carrillo says. "Their guns were drawn. I got down on the floor right away. They cuffed me as they grabbed my boyfriend off the bed."
Lt. Rafael Cintron, a spokesman for Colorado Springs police, says officers received a bad tip from an informant.
"The information that we had at this point was that [Munoz] lived there," Cintron says. "Keep in mind, we're looking for a homicide suspect armed with a shotgun."
Carrillo, who wants an apology, was detained in her home about 45 minutes as police realized they erred.
Nabbing the suspect After exiting Carrillo's apartment, police maintained a stakeout for several hours, according to residents.
Around noon, Souligny was shocked to see Munoz appear on the complex's dirt driveway, she says.
"He comes walking up, pretty as you please," she says. "Can you believe that?"
Souligny says Munoz asked her if Aleta Camargo, the woman he lived with, was at home in unit No. 7.
But Camargo wasn't there. So Munoz checked the adjacent house, which has two apartments. In the downstairs unit, No. 4, Camargo was visiting a neighboring family.
When Munoz entered No. 4, Souligny called 911.
"It wasn't long before the police swarmed," she says.
Within minutes, Camargo and her neighbors, including a toddler and a baby, were exiting amid police with drawn guns.
But Munoz burrowed into a crawl space in the basement as more than a dozen SWAT officers surrounded the house. The officers used a robot to break windows and ended up shooting about a dozen grenades of CS gas, a potent tear gas, into the building's basement and main floor.
Four-and-a-half hours later, Munoz surrendered.
"It was the gas," says SWAT Cmdr. Thor Eells. "It just became too uncomfortable for him."
Wheezing in the aftermath According to Souligny, contractors estimate it will cost $15,000 to $30,000 to remove lingering tear gas from the building's ducts, floors and walls, and to repair other damage, including holes in the house. And Souligny says the city won't help her pay for the cleanup.
Andrew Martinez, a claims adjuster for the city, says that under the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act, the city isn't liable for damages that occurred during the standoff because public safety was at risk.
"[Munoz] killed somebody," Martinez says. "Our investigation revealed that what the SWAT team did was reasonable."
Eells adds that before using the CS gas, the SWAT team used between 18 and 24 rounds of OC gas a form of pepper spray because it is easier to clean up. After two hours, he opted for CS gas because the OC gas did not flush Munoz out, and he did not want to send officers inside.
"Those situations aren't good for the officer or the bad guy," Eells says.
But Souligny says the city is shifting the costs of its police operations to her and her insurance company. She must pay a $1,000 deductible and fears her rates will be increased.
The building's upstairs unit was also damaged. Both are unlivable and cannot be rented, Souligny says, adding that two families lost their homes.
"They lost everything they owned," she says. "It's going to be trashed."