DENVER — A man who shot and killed a Colorado deputy and wounded four others along with two civilians was an attorney and an Iraq war veteran who had posted videos online in recent months criticizing professors and law enforcement officials, authorities said Monday.
Shooter Matthew Riehl, 37, died Sunday during what officials called an ambush at his apartment building in Highlands Ranch, 16 miles (28 kilometers) south of Denver.
Authorities say Riehl fired more than 100 rounds in his apartment before he was killed by a SWAT team.
Douglas County Deputy Zackari Parrish was killed.
Riehl had received warnings from authorities about his online videos involving University of Wyoming professors and Colorado law enforcement officers.
However, despite concerns about his mental health, it seems officers weren’t able to prevent the violence, even though they visited his apartment hours before the fatal shooting.
KTWO-AM in Casper, Wyoming, reported that Wyoming College of Law students had been warned about Riehl, a former student, because of the social media posts critical of professors at the school in Laramie.
A Nov. 6 email from Assistant College of Law Dean Lindsay Hoyt told students to notify campus police if they saw Riehl or his car near campus.
In addition, security on campus was increased for several days.
Campus officers called police in Lone Tree, Colorado, in mid-November to warn them about Riehl, suggesting his rants were indicative of mental illness, UW Police Chief Mike Samp told The Denver Post.
Samp said it’s possible that Colorado authorities faced the same issue as Wyoming officials when an apparently mentally ill, dangerous person makes indirect threats.
“Wyoming statutes are pretty clear: If someone is not making an immediate threat, they cannot be held for a mental evaluation. They are very tough cases,” Samp said.
A video posted on Nov. 28 showed a traffic stop of Riehl by a police officer in Lone Tree — apparently taken from inside the officer’s car.
Riehl said the video was made illegally after the officer clocked the wrong driver. He identified the officer by name in the video and called him “dirty.”
“Scumbag, dirt bag, liar,” Riehl says as the officer questions the driver.
Riehl posted another video on Dec. 13, saying he was running as a libertarian to replace Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock and complained about the sheriff and other officers in profane, highly personal terms.
Early Sunday, authorities responded to a complaint of a verbal disturbance involving two men at an apartment. A caller said Riehl was acting bizarre and might be having a mental breakdown, but responding deputies found no evidence of a crime.
When deputies were called back to the scene, a man who had left gave them a key and granted permission to enter the apartment.
All of the wounded victims except Deputy Jeff Pelle, 32, have been treated at hospitals and released. The son of Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle was in fair condition.
A candlelight vigil was set Monday evening for Parrish at Mission Hills Community Church in Littleton, Colorado — the church he attended with his wife and two young daughters.
“I’ve heard from so many different people that he just loved his community and being a police officer,” Mission Hills Pastor Craig Smith told KDVR-TV.
“Zack didn’t see law enforcement as a job. He saw it as a calling, as a way to serve his community and a blessing.”