GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (CBS4)– The man who shot and killed a Mesa County Sheriff’s deputy more than two years ago has changed his plea to guilty and could be sentenced to up to 70 years in prison.
On Feb. 8, 2016, 40 year-old Deputy Derek Geer was fatally shot by then 17-year-old Austin Holzer.
Geer responded to 911 reports of a masked man with a gun near Grand Junction’s city limits that morning. When Geer contacted Holzer, the suspect allegedly resisted arrest and tried to run.
Geer, who responded alone, pinned Holzer to the ground and administered his Taser, according to witness accounts. After being tased, Holzer reached into his pocket and shot Geer at close range. The deputy was struck four times.
In his statement to investigators, Holzer may have been suicidal and tried killing himself before shooting Deputy Geer.
“I’d rather run than get caught by a cop,” said Holzer. “That’s why I wanted him to shoot me. I knew I was going to jail. I was like, ‘Just shoot me, please, just please.’”
Holzer gave several varying but similar accounts of what happened in the shooting. He was a habitual drug offender and says he used meth just days before the incident. The shooter says he tried to kill himself before shooting Geer.
“…he’s like, ‘Yes you are (being detained),’ and that’s when he tased me and then I had my hand on my belt,” Holzer told investigators. “I could not get my hand out of my pants and off my belt and he kept yelling at me and telling me to, so that’s when I decided to shoot myself. It didn’t work and at that point, I tried to pull the gun out and shoot him.”
Holzer ran and hid but was found an hour later. Geer was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction where he remained on life support for two days to complete organ donations before he passed away.
“People who experience this tragedy will never forget being a part of this, and the effect it had on them. We’ve worked hard to move through this without forgetting and continuing to honor Derek,” said Mesa County Sheriff Matt Lewis.
The sheriff says the tragedy has made the sheriff’s office stronger.
“This is drawn us as an organization closer together. It has also drawn us closer together with our community. The overwhelming support we have felt and continue to feel since this occurred has just been amazing,” Lewis said.
As part of the plea agreement, Holzer could be sentenced to 70 years in prison. The sentencing phase begins June 5.