It’s been five months since El Paso County Deputy Sheriff Micah Flick was shot and killed in the line of duty.
While the investigation is complete, there are more questions than answers concerning the release of Deputy Flick’s autopsy report.
It’s an autopsy report that should be available under the state’s open record law.Deputy Flick was killed as a law enforcement task force moved in on suspect Manuel Zatina at the Murray Hill apartments in February.
Zatina was shot and killed, a Springs police officer and another El Paso County Sheriff’s Deputy was wounded. An innocent bystander, Thomas Villanueva, was also shot and he remains paralyzed from the waist down.
County Coroner Robert Bux is pushing to keep the autopsy sealed at the request of Deputy Flicks widow and concern for it’s emotional impact on the family.
Regardless, the autopsy report is a matter of public record. The Colorado Springs Independent and The Gazette have banded together to file an “application for review” of the coroner’s request. News 5 has also filed an open records request.
Adrian Stanley, the News Editor at the Indy says: “Similar requests to withhold autopsy results have been made by the coroner in the past, and have been overturned. We are awaiting a ruling and News 5 has also filed an open records request, so we can get a look at this critical document as well.”
What really happened that day in the parking lot of the Murray Hill apartment complex lies in the investigation that was conducted by the various agencies involved in the task force, which already raises many red flags.
The autopsy report contains critical information, like what bullets from whose weapon ultimately took Deputy Flick’s life. For that matter, who’s bullets ended the suspect’s life and left an innocent bystander paralyzed for life.
The investigation is in the hands of the district attorney. But the media wants answers, the public wants answers, and Pam Zubeck, with the Independent says rank and file officers want answers: “But more than pushback, the silence surrounding this incident, was very curious, especially considering the casualties that day. Then it started bubbling up from rank and file, that hey, keep asking these questions.”
But the struggle over the request to seal the autopsy, is a whole different can of worms. It pits County Coroner Robert Bux, against the Independent, the Gazette, News 5 and other media outlets, all demanding access to the report.
Zubek also says: “Robert Bux, the Coroner, has been pretty activist on this issue withholding a lot of these autopsy reports in the past, not just from us, but from other news organizations, but when he’s met in court, he’s lost.”
The request Bux is making on behalf of Flick’s widow, Rachel, is for obvious reasons, but he also says it’s release would “cause substantial injury to the public interest.”
So, an “Application for Review” has been filed with the courts, to weigh in on the legitimacy of the coroner’s request.
This pursuit of the truth, transparency if you will, is a directive from state lawmakers.
The state’s open records law specifically addresses these conflicts, giving strength to the argument that the public has a right to know, especially when it comes from agencies of the government, whose very existence is dependent on taxpayers.
There are now calls for an independent investigation of the incident and concerns over the law enforcement agencies involved in the deadly shootout actually conducting their own investigations.
Finally, when we hear from the District Attorney and their conclusions, we will have that for you as well.