GREELEY, Colo. (AP) – A Weld County sheriff’s review team is recommending more training following a deputy’s death in a struggle with a suspect who led officers on a high-speed chase.
Deputy Sam Brownlee, 43, was fatally shot on Nov. 23 with his own weapon as he, an Evans police officer and two other deputies wrestled suspect Rueben Reyes, 20, after the chase ended. Investigators have said Reyes had grabbed Brownlee’s gun.
The review team’s report, released Monday, describes conflicting messages from different jurisdictions about how dangerous Reyes was as the chase unfolded, which could have influenced commanders’ decisions about whether to call off the chase as it neared an elementary school.
The team said sheriff’s officials must give greater weight to the risk of a pursuit to the public and themselves. It recommended training that includes evaluating decision-making skills and identifying alternatives to pursuits.
It said Weld County’s multijurisdictional pursuit policy should be reviewed, noting that a protocol should be standardized to clarify the basis for a pursuit by requiring concise, specific information to reduce ambiguity and misperceptions.
Other suggestions included expanding officer training on weapon retention. The report said training would be improved if a full-time person devoted to training were hired.
The chase started after Reyes was reported to have stolen his girlfriend’s car during a domestic dispute in Fort Morgan. City police determined he was a gang member on probation for menacing, and relatives told officers Reyes may be suicidal because he didn’t want to go back to prison, the report said.
After officers from different jurisdictions spotted Reyes driving the car, Morgan County dispatchers told counterparts in Weld County the driver was going at least 100 mph and was “dangerous, possibly armed, but that is not known for sure,” the report said.
However, Weld County officers eventually received a note on terminals in their vehicles that said, “(asterisk)(asterisk)Susp armed & Dangerous(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)Armed Robbery occurred in Morgan, 107 mph.”
A Weld County sheriff’s commander later determined the incident was a stolen car and a suicidal threat. But the review team’s report said, “Not all officers involved in the pursuit heard updated information about the nature of the chase at all.”
A State Patrol captain ordered troopers to drop their chase as it neared a school, the report said. The Weld County commander was considering calling it off too, according to radio communications.
About four minutes later, Brownlee joined other officers who had caught up to Reyes, who allegedly continued to fight after an Evans police officer fired a Taser. Brownlee was shot with his own gun during the struggle. It appeared his holster was functioning as designed, the report said. The lethal shot apparently entered his bulletproof vest at an angle that it may not have been tested for, then struck him in the head, the report said.
A spokeswoman for the Weld County sheriff’s office did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.
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