Police justified in killing Highlands Ranch man on deadly rampage

Body cam video shows moments of fatal New Years Eve shooting in Douglas County

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. - A man whose mental health breakdown and subsequent rampage in his Highlands Ranch apartment led to the death of a Douglas County deputy was justifiably killed by responding officers, according to a new report released Monday by the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office.

Matthew Riehl was killed after a violent incident in the early hours of Dec. 31 that left Douglas County Deputy Zackari Parrish dead and several other police officers and deputies injured.

Details were released in search warrant affidavits, and the Douglas County Sheriff's Office released body camera footage in the wake of the shooting. The report, compiled by investigators with the 18th Judicial District Criminal Response Team, provides an outline of what led up to Parrish's and Riehl's deaths.

According to the report, Riehl was the first to call 911 at about 3 a.m. on Dec. 31 claiming to have an altercation with his roommate. Cpl. Aaron Coleman and Parrish responded at the Copper Canyon Apartments in Highlands Ranch.

When the deputies responded, Riehl first tried to say nothing was going on, but later said his roommate "came at him" and that Riehl shined a laser in his face in response. During the course of questioning, Riehl became combative, yelling out "assault" and "rape" when Coleman put a hand on his chest to stop him from returning to his apartment.

Riehl's roommate told Coleman and Parrish that he was concerned about a noise complaint made about Riehl and that he hadn't seen Riehl sleep for three days. The roommate then left for work.

The investigation says "it was apparent that Mr. Riehl was experiencing mental health issues, however his behavior did not meet the requirements to be placed on a mental health hold under Colorado law." The deputies left the apartment complex at about 3:42 a.m.

About an hour and a half later, Riehl called 911 again and said he needed to file an emergency restraining order against his roommate. He told the 911 operator he had weapons but said he wouldn't hurt anyone.

Police later found out that Riehl had a small arsenal in his bedroom. Unknown to the responding officers at the time, these are the firearms Riehl had in his bedroom:

  • Springfield XD45
  • Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum Revolver
  • Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum Revolver
  • Smith and Wesson M&P Shield
  • Ruger 10/22
  • Windham AR-15
  • Palmetto Arms PA-15
  • Wold Muzzleloader
  • Coonan MCI-LAR-3
  • Henry Survival Rifle
  • Ruger Mark III
  • Springfield M1
  • Hi-point rifle
  • Savage A17
  • Ruger M77 Hawkeye

Dep. Taylor Davis and Parrish went back to the apartment and heard loud noises coming from inside. Riehl was acting erratic and said they couldn't enter the apartment before partially opening the door to request "a domestic restraining order."

Despite both deputies making their presence and identities known several times, Riehl repeatedly asked "who was there and if they had a warrant," according to the report.

It was apparent that Riehl was having a manic episode, so Parrish told other deputies who arrived at the scene that he was going to place Riehl on a mental health hold. The deputies came up with a plan to get Riehl out of the apartment after getting the keys to the place from Riehl's roommate.

At around 5:50 a.m., Davis -- equipped with a ballistic shield -- led Dep. Jeff Pelle, Sgt. Dave Beyer, Dep. Michael Doyle, and Parrish into Riehl's apartment. Doyle identified the group as being with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office before they kicked the door down due to it being blocked from the inside by Riehl.

Davis yelled for Riehl to come out of the bedroom, and Parrish followed. Davis kicked Riehl's bedroom door, but it didn't open. That's when Riehl began yelling that "he warned them and demanded they identify themselves," despite the group already doing so, according to the report.

Parrish moved around Davis and kicked the bedroom door. Within seconds, Riehl opened fire through the door and a cacophony of gunfire and screaming emanated through the apartment.

Parrish fell to the ground and yelled that he was shot and bleeding out. Davis was struck in the wrist through her shield, and she broke through a window to jump to the ground below. Pelle and Doyle backed up and tried to retrieve Parrish, but both were shot by Riehl during the rescue attempt. Pelle was shot in the chest, and Doyle was shot in the arm.

Beyer covered for Pelle and Doyle to retreat and radioed for help at about 5:56 a.m.

The cavalry arrived swiftly from DCSO, the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, Parker Police Department, Lone Tree Police Department, Castle Rock Police Department, Greenwood Village Police Department, and Colorado State Patrol. They all worked to set up a perimeter while teams worked to rescue Parrish.

But it would be another hour before Parrish was retrieved from the second-story apartment, as Riehl continued to rain bullets over the officers on the ground.

Three deputies with DCSO positioned themselves outside Riehl's apartment and moved to the bottom of the stairs to yell to Parrish. Riehl then fired a rifle at the deputies, and all three returned fire before backing up to a safer area. One of the deputies reported hearing several rounds fired near him.

Riehl kept firing at the deputies until SWAT arrived. A sniper with Arapahoe County set up to watch Riehl's apartment and fired one shot into the apartment after hearing "a snap behind him" that he believed was a round of gunfire from Riehl. The sniper's shot didn't hit Riehl.

At 6:59 a.m., additional SWAT officers arrived at the scene and Sgt. Darren Trujillo ordered a gas grenade shot into the apartment, but one was never fired. Riehl was later found wearing a gas mask, seemingly in preparation for gas countermeasures.

At some point during the standoff, a flash bang was thrown near the stairs to distract the suspect and alert Parrish to the deputies' presence. Riehl screamed and fired his rifle at SWAT in response.

The SWAT officers also found that Riehl had a surveillance camera above his door, and when an officer shot out the camera lens, Riehl responded with gunshots. Riehl had also been live streaming the incident on Periscope, though the majority of the video is black.

While police on the ground distracted Riehl and fired bean bags to remove the blanket covering his bedroom window, another team of officers entered the apartment adjacent to Riehl's by a ladder. The team noticed "numerous bullet holes" but also spotted Parrish laying inside Riehl's apartment.

Five deputies/officers and one medic made their way into Riehl's apartment behind a ballistic shield, and Riehl began firing at them through the bedroom door. One of the officers was struck in the thigh, and three others returned fire. Three sergeants quickly ran up the stairs to help the rescue effort, and they were able to drag Parrish out of the apartment with covering fire.

Officer Cleveland Holmes kicked the bedroom door and saw movement behind it, so he fired his weapon. That's when Holmes heard Riehl fall to the ground. Riehl tried to reach for a shotgun; Holmes told him not to move, but he continued to reach for it.

Holmes and Officer Ronnie Dorrell fired at Riehl and worked to get him into custody. Despite being shot multiple times, Riehl still struggled, and Sgt. Jacob Schuster had to strike him to get him in handcuffs. Riehl was treated by a medic at the scene -- the same medic who helped extract Parrish -- but he died on the scene.

According to an autopsy report, all of the bullets found in Parrish's body were connected to Riehl's firearms. Two of Riehl's neighbors were also injured by stray bullets that were fired during the standoff. It wasn't made clear who fired those bullets.

A total of 185 spent casings, 1,067 live cartridges, and 22 magazines were found inside Riehl's bedroom. There were about 180 projectile holes in the bedroom's walls, ceiling, and floor.

The DA's office says "all officers acted completely lawfully in using deadly force against Matthew Riehl."

The report says Riehl shot Parrish, Doyle, Pelle, and Davis without legal right or justification while they attempted to place him on a mental health hold.

"Riehl posed a continuing deadly threat to law enforcement and the community," the DA's Office said. "The officers did not violate a criminal statute. No criminal charges will be filed against any officer involved in the death of Mr. Riehl."

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