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Pueblo Police Chief speaks out on recent shootings

Pueblo Police Chief speaks out on recent shootings

PUEBLO, Colo. - Pueblo Police Chief Luis Velez speaks out following Tuesday morning's officer-involved shooting -- the third in six months.

"This is atypical," said Velez.

The first officer-involved shooting happened in August behind Toni & Joe's Pizzeria at 2039 Columbia Dr. Edward Valdez III shot at an officer with a BB gun, the officer fired back and killed him.

The second happened on Christmas Day. Police were called to a home on a domestic violence report. When the officer arrived, the suspect, Richard Robert Licon, came outside and the officer saw he had a gun. Officers chased him down an alley and the pursuit ended in front of an apartment building where police shot him. He died later at a hospital.

The third happened on New Year's day. A detective shot and killed, 21-year-old Christopher Tavares, who police said fled from a vehicle and shot an officer in the shoulder.

"Police work is dangerous business," said Velez.

The National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund has statistics to back up Velez's statement. In a recent report, it said 127 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty.  Colorado's officer fatalities accounted for six of those deaths. There were two in Colorado Springs, one in Denver, one in Englewood, one in Lakewood and one in Pueblo.

Colorado is tied for third with Maryland for officer fatalities among the 50 states. Texas came in first and Georgia came in second.

Velez said when an officer is faced with a gun, there are no other alternatives than returning fire. He said there are instances when using a Teaser is a great option, but when an officer faces a deadly weapon, using a Teaser is not an option. He also said trying to disarm the subject doesn't work.

"The issue of shooting a gun out of a person's hand or shooting a person in the leg, that's absolutely unrealistic," said Velez.

He said lessons can be learned from these officer-involved shootings.

"Certainly, don't point a gun at a police officer, don't shoot at a police officer. The consequences of that can be grave," said Velez.

The crisis intervention team is investigating the New Year's day shooting. The officer that killed Tavares was placed on routine administrative leave during the investigation.

The officer shot in the shoulder is expected to make a full recovery.

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