Authorities release report on deadly Douglas County officer-involved shooting

Posted at 3:18 PM, Jul 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-16 17:18:40-04

The 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office formally ruled an officer-involved shooting that killed gunman Matthew Reihl last December in northern Douglas County was justified.

A review of body camera video and witness accounts of the shooting cleared the 11 officers who fired shots at Riehl after he shot and killed Douglas County deputy Zackari Parrish on Dec. 31, 2017.

That shooting left another four officers and deputies wounded and left two neighbors with gunshot wounds to their arms.

The report detailed Parrish’s previous call to Riehl’s apartment off of E. County Line Road in Highlands Ranch around 3 a.m. on Dec. 31, 2017. Riehl called 911 to report that his roommate had shined a laser in his eye and that his roommate was having a mental breakdown.

Parrish and his partner Corporal Aaron Coleman responded to the call and interviewed both Riehl and his roommate on scene. According to the report, Riehl accused Deputy Coleman of assaulting him by touching his neck. According to investigators, video from Coleman’s body camera showed no contact to his neck. Investigators said Riehl also shined a flashlight in the eyes of his roommate and "asked if he knew the year."

As Coleman interviewed Riehl, Parrish interviewed the roommate. The roommate told deputy Parrish Riehl slept during odd hours and he hadn’t seen him sleep for three days. He also said the apartment complex had previously notified him of a noise complaint, and he was worried the noise would cause repercussions against him.

The investigative report backed up Parrish’s and Coleman’s determination that Riehl’s behavior did not meet the criteria to place a mental health hold on him under Colorado law. The deputies left the apartment at 3:42 a.m.

The report showed Riehl dialed 911 again at 5:12 a.m. and that he needed to file an emergency restraining order against his roommate. Riehl told the 911 operator that deputies had been to his apartment earlier and had been "physically aggressive" with him.

Parrish and Deputy Taylor Davis came back to the apartment, with Parrish knocking on the door to make contact with Riehl. When Parrish asked to come back in to Riehl’s apartment, Riehl told him he could not come in. Eventually, Riehl cracked the door and told Parrish he wanted to file a restraining order against his roommate before he slammed the door again and began yelling, according to the report.

At that time, Parrish told other deputies he was going to put a mental health hold on Riehl. Parrish called Riehl’s roommate, who was at work at the time, and asked if deputies had permission to enter the apartment. The roommate said yes and provided deputies the keys once he left work. The roommate also warned Parrish that Riehl had rifles in the apartment.

Davis, who carried a ballistic shield, led three deputies into the apartment and called for Riehl to come out of his bedroom. Davis kicked his door when he did not come out. Riehl yelled and warned them to identify themselves, which documents and body camera video show they did repeatedly.

Documents show Parrish moved around Davis and kicked a hole in the door below the doorknob, and that’s when Riehl opened fire through his bedroom door. Parrish and Davis were both hit. Davis was shot in the wrist after a bullet came through her shield. Davis retreated and escaped the apartment by breaking a window and jumping from the second story of the building. 

Parrish was shot and fell to the ground. He yelled that he was bleeding out. Deputies Jeff Pelle and Michael Doyle were behind Parrish and Davis. They avoided the first round of gunfire, and then tried to get back to the door to rescue Parrish when they were shot.

Pelle was shot in the chest, while Doyle was shot in the forearm. They retreated out of the apartment and were taken to the hospital. Davis also received medical attention on scene.

Numerous other law enforcement agencies responded to the scene after the deputies called for help. Authorities then worked to surround the apartment and secure the area, but documents said Riehl continued to fire at officers for the next hour while SWAT, snipers and other officers worked to distract Riehl, disable a surveillance camera outside the apartment, and rescue Parrish inside.

Five SWAT officers and a medic entered the apartment while other SWAT units worked to distract Riehl outside the apartment. Riehl eventually directed fire at the officers in the apartment, hitting Officer Tom O’Donnell in the leg while he tried to draw fire away from Parrish and his rescuers. Officers were able to drag Parrish out of the apartment and get him to Littleton Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Officer Cleveland Holmes, who was one of the officers inside the apartment, kicked a larger hole in Riehl’s bedroom door. Holmes said he saw Riehl move and shot through the door. He said he heard Riehl fall to the ground, but saw him reach for a shotgun. That’s when Officer Ronnie Dorrell shot Riehl again. Officers kicked down the rest of the door and found Riehl on the ground, wearing a gas mask, with his left hand under his body where a handgun was located. 

Officers and deputies inside the apartment tried to put him in handcuffs, but he resisted, causing one of the officers to hit him. Once he was in handcuffs, authorities moved him outside of the apartment, where he died from his injuries. An autopsy showed Riehl was shot once in the back, twice in the left arm and once in his right hand.

A search of Riehl’s apartment showed he owned 15 guns. Investigators found 185 shell casings in the bedroom along with another 1067 live bullets and 22 magazines. Investigators also counted 180 bullet holes in surrounding walls of the apartment.

The Critical Response Team ruled officers were justified in their actions to shoot Riehl. The 37-year-old was an Iraq War veteran and hadmade threats to the University of Wyoming and took classes at Kenaz Tactical Group in Colorado Springs.