AURORA, Colo. (CBS4/AP)– Four people, including an armed suspect who may have been high on methamphetamine, died during an hours-long police standoff Saturday at a Colorado townhome, authorities said.
Three people were found dead inside the townhome near Hampden and Kalispell just after 9 a.m. Saturday. Aurora police Sgt. Cassidee Carlson said two men and a woman appeared to have been killed before officers arrived.
A fifth person, identified by a person close to the family as Stephanie Archuleta, escaped unharmed. She called police to report that she saw three people inside the home who “appeared lifeless,” said Carlson, who declined to elaborate about the woman’s escape.
A person close to the family confirmed the names of those who died to CBS4. The gunman has been identified as Stephanie Archuleta’s husband, Sonny Archuleta, 33. The other victims have been identified as Stephanie Archuleta’s sister, Stacie Philbrook and her boyfriend, Chris Ratliffe; and Sonny Archuleta’s father-in-law, Anthony Ticali.
Sonny Archuleta had been barricaded inside the home in the 16000 block of East Ithaca Place since 3 a.m. Saturday. Neighbors also had called police and said they had heard gunshots coming from the home.
“The cop said, ‘Yeah, he’s been on a methamphetamine binge for the past four days,’ ” neighbor Jennifer Williams told CBS4.
Several neighboring townhomes were evacuated for safety reasons. Both directions of Hampden were shut down from Kalispell to Laredo for several hours. All lanes of Hampden were reopened at 10 a.m.
SWAT teams converged outside the home and tried to contact Sonny Archuleta. They were unable to get him to leave the residence. Teams deployed tear gas inside the home about 8:30 a.m. in an effort to get him to come out.
SWAT officers fired back at Sonny Archuleta after he shot at their armored vehicles from a second story window. It wasn’t known if officers shot the suspect or if he shot himself.
“After we arrived on scene, there were no more shots fired up until he fired at us,” Carlson said. “During this time he was all over the house. He moved furniture. He was throwing things. He was agitated. He was irrational.
When officers entered the home they found the three people dead inside.
A motive for the killings was unknown. Police wearing gloves and carrying evidence bags were going over the crime scene.
“Obviously we’ll have to determine if it was our rounds or his rounds,” Carlson said.
Even though CBS4 has found the names of those involved, police have not confirmed the relationship between the gunman and those found dead or how they were killed.
“We have an idea of who they are, but we obviously want to confirm their identities with the coroner,” Carlson said.
Next-door neighbor Melissa Wright, a nurse who treated victims of the July movie theater shootings in Aurora, said she was in her second-floor bedroom when she saw the gunman start shooting from his own bedroom window. She said she didn’t know what he was shooting at, and that she quickly dropped to the floor.
“I hit the ground pretty fast,” Wright said.
Wright said she slid on her belly to the first floor of her home and told police what she saw upstairs. Officers quickly entered her home.
Wright said she knew the gunman as Sonny Archuleta — a name used by police officers trying to negotiate with the man with the bullhorn. Wright said the townhome may have been inhabited by the gunman, the gunman’s wife, her father and another man.
“As the morning progressed I started hearing things more clearly and the cops were saying, ‘Sonny, so and so, I have your wife Stephanie with us,’ ” neighbor Shauna Bustios said.
A family member of Chris Ratliffe’s, Edmund Daniel, also spoke with CBS4.
“We loved him dearly. We know he was going through some things in life that he was definitely trying to change to right his wrongs in life,” Daniel said.
Sonny and Stephanie Archuleta previously lived in Englewood. A former landlord, Paul Ramsey, told CBS4 she performed child care at a church. He also said Sonny Archuleta was temperamental.
“Sonny was a combustible figure, so I’m not surprised that he could do something off the rails. I’m surprised that he could do this,” Ramsey said.
Sonny Archuleta has a criminal past including 2012 misdemeanor arrests for a fugitive warrant out of Aurora for reckless endangerment, in Denver for carrying a concealed weapon, and another in Denver for prohibited use of a weapon.
The officers who fired their weapons were placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation, which is standard procedure
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)