GRAND COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin, who shot at a burglary suspect early Tuesday morning, was involved in a controversial shooting 14 years ago when he shot an unarmed suspect following a chase.
Schroetlin is on leave after shooting at Connor James MacLaird, who authorities say was caught breaking into a liquor store in Tabernash Tuesday. During a confrontation with Schroetlin and other law enforcement officers, MacLaird brandished a knife, according to a news release.
The sheriff put himself on leave along with three of his deputies. MacLaird’s gunshot wounds were deemed non-life-threatening. CBS4 reporter Matt Kroschel reported the shots that wounded MacLaird came from Sheriff Schroetlin.
Schroetlin previously served as a police officer in the small town of Lochbuie. On Nov. 25, 2001, Schroetlin was involved in a chase of DUI suspect Stephen Dennis. At the conclusion of the pursuit, Schroetlin shot Dennis, who was unarmed.
“I still have a bullet in my hip,” Dennis told CBS4.
He said he was also shot in the hand. Dennis said Schroetlin hit him with three shots. Dennis maintained he had his hands above his head and was surrendering when he was shot. Authorities cleared Schroetlin of any wrongdoing in the shooting. Dennis subsequently filed a federal lawsuit against Schroetlin and Lochbuie over the shooting but withdrew the lawsuit within six months after he said he received death threats.
Dennis pleaded guilty in 2003 to DUI and eluding in connection with the 2001 case. He received three years probation.
However in a letter from the Adams County District Attorney obtained by CBS4 cleared Schroetlin of wrongdoing in the case, with the district attorney writing that Dennis ran toward Schroetlin with his hands in his pockets, ignoring commands to stop and show his hands. According to the letter, Dennis said to Schroetlin, “It’s me or you pig … come on shoot me.” The letter also notes Dennis was more than six feet tall and weighed more than 250 pounds when he charged toward the reserve officer.
The prosecutor’s letter also notes that Dennis was driving on a revoked license and was involved in a similar incident in 1999 with Brighton police.
The Adam County prosecutor deemed the 2001 shooting justified with Schroetlin defending himself from imminent danger of death or bodily harm.