AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Aurora police said a man tried to extort money from a woman for her car keys. On Monday police talked about why they shot the suspect dead.
Police said the officer was defending himself. They say the suspect, Juan Contreras, attacked the officer when he tried to arrest him. Police said Contreras pulled a knife on the officer.
The incident happened Saturday night on East Colfax. Police said a woman called to say she had lost her keys in a grocery store parking lot and found a note on her car saying if she wanted them back, she should call the phone number listed.
An officer called the number and arranged a meeting with the suspect who police said was trying to extort money for the keys. Police said when they met Contreras he showed the keys and demanded $100. As the officer tried to arrest him, police said Contreras began to punch him.
“At some point the officer noticed that the suspect was reaching into the center console and what he was reaching for was this knife. This knife is about 9 inches long. The officer saw the suspect motioning as if trying to open it with one hand, as the officer had his other arm nearest the door,” Det. Bob Friel with Aurora police said.
It’s not certain how long the struggle lasted.
“At a certain point the officer made the decision to release the suspect. He took a step back from the door and fired three shots,” Friel said.
Contreras, 59, owns a motel on East Colfax. He has seven children and no previous police record in Aurora.
Witnesses said the officer identified himself repeatedly as an Aurora police officer, but he was in plain clothes and he did not have a badge on him.
The family was at the police department Monday and was visibly upset by the news. They said Contreras would not have resisted arrest if the officer had a badge on him and he had known that he was a police officer.
“Because he didn’t know it was an undercover cop. Anybody can go to anybody and say, ‘I’m an undercover cop,'” a family member said. “It’s okay to grab him and twist his arm and all that? No.”
Police said they also have many questions about what happened.
“The attempt at extorting this elderly woman and the fight with the officer doesn’t make any sense to us,” Friel said.
Police said it’s an unusual case because a patrol officer went undercover and it wasn’t an undercover officer who responded. They will be reviewing the case to make sure policies were followed.