Shooting at the Colorado Capitol

AP Photo

A man who entered the Colorado State Capitol with a gun claiming to be "the emporor" and announcing his intention to take over the state government, was shot and killed today. At the time, Governor Bill Ritter and his staff were working in their offices at the Capitol.

The good news is Governor Ritter and his staff were uninjured.

Now the questions:

Why aren't there metal detectors in the State Capitol?

Metal detectors were installed at the Capitol after the 9/11 attacks but lawmakers later had them removed.

Was it a necessary or excessive use of force to kill the gunman? Since he hadn't fired any shots and witnesses report hearing multiple shots, all of the shooting appears to have been done by one or more state troopers. One witness recounted hearing four shots.

I have to disagree with Gov. Ritter's spokesperson Evan Dreyer, who said:

"It’s a testament to the State Patrol that this incident ended quickly and that the governor and everyone else is safe."


"Everyone else" is not safe. A man is dead. A testament would be due the State Patrol if they had apprehended him alive so he could be charged with a crime and then tried in a court of law.

An investigation is underway. Denver Police spokesman Sonny Jackson said this afternoon:

Denver homicide detectives are investigating the shooting because it was "a homicide that happened in the City and County of Denver."

So, we know it was a homicide. What we don't know is if it was justifiable.

[Coss-posted at 5280.com.]

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  • Display: Sort:
    I disagree (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by rdandrea on Mon Jul 16, 2007 at 09:32:38 PM EST
    A man tries to break into the Governor's office (or anyone else's office for that matter) with a gun has already made his choice.  You can Monday-morning quarterback all you want about taking him alive.

    Let's await the investigation and (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by oculus on Mon Jul 16, 2007 at 09:42:41 PM EST
    decision of the D.A.'s office. Innocent until proven guilty--the CO State patrolperson, that is.

    While I understand (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by HK on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 03:52:26 AM EST
    that decisions have to be made in the heat of the moment, I'm not so sure this guy would have shot someone.  Afterall, if I was looking to physically harm someone, having a conversation with their security detail about it first wouldn't be part of the plan.  It's like that line in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly:

    If you're gonna shoot, shoot; don't talk.

    It's good that no one else was hurt, but it doesn't mean that this situation was resolved successfully.  This guy could well have been mentally ill and there needs to be proper provision for such people in the health care system and in communities so that they don't end up hurting themselves or others.  Mental health care is really poor in the US with many insurance packages not covering for this kind of medical help.  Jails are filling up with people who need the right kind of medication, not punishment.  Maybe this particular guy wan't mentally ill, I don't know, but I do know it is a problem that needs addressing.

    I know that in this situation they felt a decision needed to be made quickly, but my husband commented the other day that we use tranquiliser darts on animals, why not on humans?  Not only would it allow the perpetrator to be brought to justice through the courts, but if the wrong person gets hit it isn't such a big deal.

    A tranquiliser dart? (none / 0) (#9)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 02:09:26 PM EST
    How long does it take for it to take effect? How many times could the guy have pulled the trigger before he went down for a snooze?

    Lethal force is (supposedly, anyway) used when there is no other option. iow, when non-lethal force is not sufficient.

    Considering all the meds, illegal drugs, etc., that people are on these days, how certain could you be that a supposedly non-lethal tranquilizer wouldn't end up being lethal?

    Cops have plenty of presumably non-lethal options at their disposal, not every situation qualifies for their use.


    If the facts are basically as stated... (4.50 / 2) (#3)
    by roy on Mon Jul 16, 2007 at 10:24:29 PM EST
    The cops were right to shoot.  He had a gun in his hand; that means he only needed about a half a second and a little luck to kill somebody.  I know cops have to exercise a lot of restraint in deciding when to use deadly force, but they shouldn't have to  wait for the first cop or bystander to be shot.

    It sounds like the man was sick.  It's a sad thing that ideally would have been dealt with long before he got to this point, but once he started waving a gun around and refused to drop it, it would have been irresponsible for the cops to give him time while they tried less drastic measures to stop him.

    It is horrible when a cop is killed by a citizen (none / 0) (#4)
    by JSN on Mon Jul 16, 2007 at 10:42:16 PM EST
    and when a citizen is killed by a cop. The police are trained on
    how to avoid shooting if possible. What happens sometimes is once they start they keep shooting.

    I cannot imagine why they removed the metal detector. No doubt they will put it back into operation now they have proof it is needed.

    good question: (none / 0) (#6)
    by cpinva on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 09:19:40 AM EST
    why were the metal detectors not in place? they are in just about every other public building in the country, i should think the state capitol building would be #1 on the list.

    i have to wonder if this isn't "suicide by cop"? clearly, the man was mentally ill, had he been waving around something other than a gun, i suspect we'd be discussing his being placed in a hospital, for a psyche evaluation. unfortunately, that isn't the case.

    i await the results of the investigation. in this instance, i have this feeling the police were in a "no win" situation.

    good point (none / 0) (#7)
    by IagainstI on Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 12:05:39 PM EST
    I agree with cpinva.  Now, lawmakers have substantive proof that removing the metal detectors was poor judgment--hopefully not indicative of their legislative judgment.

    I will also withhold my judgment on the shooting until I can review the results of the investigation.  Mental illness notwithstanding, the "emperor" put everyone's life at risk by brandishing a firearm.  The Virginia Tech shooter was mentally ill, as well.

    I'm much more interested in the question of why it is so easy for mentally ill people to possess firearms.  Perhaps a required psychological evaluation in addition to a criminal background check might help prevent future disasters.


    Mental health status is confidential. (none / 0) (#8)
    by JSN on Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 01:56:03 PM EST
    Our former Sheriff told me that even though he had served the commitment papers for a mentally ill person because of confidentiality he could not use that knowledge to deny a permit to purchase a handgun.

    I can recall only one case where a psychiatrist called the police to warn them that a patient was dangerous. When they got to his house they discovered a murder-suicide so the warning was not timely. My impression they can only give warning in the case of an immediate and credible threat.