Douglas County

Gunman used four firearms, surveillance cameras during standoff with deputies

Sheriff's office released hours of footage from the Dec. 31 shooting that left Zackari Parrish dead

Posted 1/10/18

Four Douglas County Sheriff's Office deputies and a sergeant move single file into a Highlands Ranch apartment, shoving their way through a barricade. The first deputy in line, Taylor Davis, holds up …

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Douglas County

Gunman used four firearms, surveillance cameras during standoff with deputies

Sheriff's office released hours of footage from the Dec. 31 shooting that left Zackari Parrish dead


Four Douglas County Sheriff's Office deputies and a sergeant move single file into a Highlands Ranch apartment, shoving their way through a barricade.

The first deputy in line, Taylor Davis, holds up a shield as they call numerous times to Matthew Riehl, who's holed up in his bedroom.

“Matthew, come out,” Davis implored as the team entered Riehl's home with a key his roommate provided.

Earlier the morning of Dec. 31, deputies determined Riehl, 37, was going through a “manic episode.” Their last encounter ended with him slamming a door in their face. Now, they were attempting to place him on a mental health hold.

Deputies went inside believing there were guns in the apartment, and in fact, Riehl had multiple firearms and had set up two surveillance cameras, enabling him to track officers' movements. Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock would later say he believed Riehl had planned this, that it was a setup.

Body camera video shows the deputies calling to Riehl five times, asking him to come out. Riehl is heard yelling to them from inside his room, but his words are inaudible.

Deputies kick his door four times, and then, a flurry of gunshots burst from Riehl's bedroom. A gaping hole appears in the door almost instantly.

The officers scream. Those who can, run.

Deputies Michael Doyle and Jeff Pelle take a few steps outside the apartment when they realize two of their comrades, Davis and Deputy Zackari Parrish, are trapped inside. They immediately turn back.

“He's down,” one deputy says of Parrish. The deputy calls for cover as he drops to the ground. Between him and Parrish is Riehl's bedroom.

He begins to crawl forward when another round of bullets rain down on them. Doyle and Pelle cry out as they're hit, and are forced to retreat, leaving Parrish and Davis behind.

In the chaos, however, Pelle and Doyle had not seen Davis run to another bedroom. There, she smashed the window and jumped from the second story to escape the ambush, although she too was shot.

Only Parrish remained inside, where he stayed with the gunman for nearly 90 minutes before SWAT officers could reach him.

Hours of footage released

That was one of numerous scenes from newly released body camera footage filmed during the New Year's Eve shooting where Deputy Zackari Parrish, a husband and father of two, was killed and four officers and two civilians were injured.

The standoff with law enforcement ended when Riehl was also shot to death by a regional SWAT team.

The eight videos piece together the events which unfolded that morning. The standoff itself lasted approximately two hours but the videos, each from a different officer, are a combined 7.5 hours of footage.

The footage shows deputies' repeated attempts to communicate with Riehl before deciding to detain him on a mental health hold.

It follows deputies as they enter Riehl's cluttered apartment, and captures the moment Riehl opens fire on them through his closed bedroom door.

In the hours that followed, the videos show the wounded deputies running for cover, law enforcement swarming to the scene, evacuating residents, scaling balconies, strategizing and conducting the raid that ended Riehl's life.

In the most sobering moment of the videos, officers are seen carrying an officer who appears to be Parrish away from the apartment, loading his body into a truck bed and driving away.

In speaking with Colorado Community Media the day of the Jan. 9 release of the footage, Spurlock said authorities later found 15 weapons in Riehl's apartment, 11 of which were functional.

Riehl used four firearms — a shotgun, an M4 rifle, an M16 rifle and a .45-caliber handgun — during the confrontation with law enforcement, the sheriff said. A joint investigation with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives determined all Riehl's weapons were legally purchased between 2010 and 2016.

Riehl also used two surveillance cameras, one posted outside his apartment and the other inside, to observe law enforcement before and during the shooting, Spurlock said.

“They didn't have the advantage of knowing that he had a video camera on them at all times,” Spurlock said of his deputies. “We do know that he used those cameras in the attack on us based on how he was laying down gunfire.”

Riehl had a lengthy history — but no formal criminal record — with law enforcement in both Colorado and Wyoming and was subject to welfare checks by authorities in recent weeks. The four deputies and their sergeant were aware of that past when they responded to two 9-1-1 calls from Riehl's apartment the morning of the shooting.

“That's why there were four deputies and a supervisor. Otherwise that call would have been two deputies. Any other mental health call doesn't get the attention that this individual got,” Spurlock said.

The first call came at 3 a.m. about a noise complaint. The second call, made by Riehl, came at 5:14 a.m. for an alleged domestic assault. The first deputy arrived on scene at 5:17 a.m. and the last by 5:35 a.m.

At 5:57 a.m., Riehl fired the first shots at officers.

Two investigations into the shooting are ongoing. One is a homicide investigation and the other a review of law enforcement's use of deadly force.

Planned attack

Spurlock said he believes Riehl's 911 call was a strategic and calculated move.

“I do believe that he lured them back on that second call based upon the type of call it was and what he was saying and what he was doing,” Spurlock said, adding Riehl was “essentially setting them up to come in and get him where he had the advantage.”

When directly asked if the shooting may have been premeditated or planned, Spurlock said:

“We're working on the assumption that it was planned. That homicide investigation is still ongoing and the use of force is,” he said. “When those two come together I think we will have a definitive. They will be able to say yeah, this took place, this took place, which led us to here, which would lead us to believe that this was an ambush.”

The shooting has changed him, Spurlock said, especially when he thinks of the Parrish family's pain.

“Emotionally, this is pretty draining and it's sad. I'm responsible for the 615 members of my office. I'm responsible for what happens to them so it has impacted me significantly,” he said. “I think it's going to change me. I was profoundly struck by Zack and the way Zack lived his life.”

Moving forward, Spurlock said those who knew Parrish will honor him by trying to live life the way he did. Parrish has been described as a passionate law enforcement officer who loved his job and loved serving people.

The body camera footage released Jan. 9 provides video from eight different officers — both before, during and after Riehl began shooting at deputies.

Colorado Community Media is still reviewing the footage. The following are additional descriptions of what is shown in the videos.

Parrish's view

The 35-minute portion of Parrish's body camera footage released Jan. 9 illustrates what happened after the first 9-1-1 call came in Dec. 31.

Parrish appears to be the first deputy on scene and waits until others arrive before approaching Riehl's apartment at the Copper Canyon complex off County Line Road. He tells a deputy, who is not visible in the footage, “There's a camera” on Riehl's apartment door. The two then approach the second-story apartment and knock.

Riehl opens the door and greets officers.

“My roommate freaked out on me and came at me,” he tells them as his roommate enters the room.

Deputies separate the two men — Riehl is taken outside and Parrish remains inside with Riehl's roommate.

Over the next 30 minutes, at least three deputies interview both Riehl and the roommate about an argument between the two that night. They learn the two met while working at Walmart and have lived together for several months. Only the roommate's name is on the lease.

The roommate tells Parrish the argument began when he confronted Riehl around 1:25 a.m. for yelling out their door. He was concerned because the two received a noise complaint the day before, he said. The roommate remains calm but confused as he talks with deputies about Riehl's behavior.

Meanwhile, Riehl claims he called authorities after becoming concerned with his roommate for allegedly not knowing what year it was and because he felt unsafe in the earlier confrontation. Riehl also claims he called out of concern for his roommate's health after he shined a light in his eyes.

At one point, while Parrish interviews the roommate in the apartment, Riehl is heard loudly yelling “assault, assault, rape, rape, rape” outside as he's interviewed by another deputy.

Parrish walks down the stairs to them where Riehl is being held against a wall by the deputy. The two are arguing about Riehl providing identification. The situation de-escalates and Parrish returns to speak with the roommate upstairs.

“It sounds like he might have some mental issues,” Parrish later tells the roommate, who says he hopes Riehl will be moving out soon but that he's not aware if Riehl uses drugs or has diagnosed mental health conditions.

Deputies cleared the call at 3:44 a.m. As they leave, Riehl is heard shouting, “Happy new year.”

Deputy Doyle

Approximately 40 minutes of body camera footage from Deputy Michael Doyle during the second 911 call shows deputies, led by Parrish, spending several minutes attempting to speak with Riehl before deciding to place him on a mental health hold.

When Parrish first knocks on the door Riehl can be heard from inside the apartment repeatedly asking Parrish to identify himself. Davis stands just to Parrish's right on the top few steps and Doyle positions himself midway up the stairwell for most the encounter.

Parrish complies with Riehl's insistent requests, often saying, “It's Zack. Matt, open the door.” He identifies himself nearly 10 times before Riehl agrees to speak with them face-to-face.

“Are you OK,” Parrish asks once he does. Davis, who'd stood prepared with her gun drawn, quietly holsters her weapon. Spurlock said deputies knew Riehl had guns.

Riehl is extremely agitated. He's upset about their earlier visit where he says they did not help him after he reported his roommate assaulted him. Parrish confirms with Riehl there was no physical assault and offers to give Riehl a number to the county's civil division. Riehl insists on filing a restraining order immediately and claims he's already called the civil division.

“Did you not get that message,” he says before slamming the door.

For several minutes, Riehl can be heard shouting and ranting from inside the apartment. Parrish resumes calling to him through the closed door. By now, deputies have decided to detain him on an “M-1” mental health hold. An M-1 is a mental health hold approved by the Colorado Department of Human Services for people who need to be hospitalized due to risky behavior.

“Let's back off this door in case he does get a gun,” Parrish tells Davis, and the two take a few steps away.

Doyle is heard saying into his radio, “He's very manic and very upset right now.”

Riehl resumes repeatedly demanding for Parrish to identify himself, which he does. The deputies leave a few minutes later when Riehl does not come to the door. The body camera footage goes silent sometime between 5:35 a.m. and the 5:57 a.m. shooting but they can be seen talking among each other on the apartment grounds.

Spurlock said in a video statement released Jan. 8 the deputies spent that time forming a plan to get Riehl help.

Sgt. Beyer

Body camera footage from a “Sgt. Beyer” shows the four deputies entering Riehl's apartment before he opens fire on them.

“Sheriff's office,” a deputy yelled into the apartment before they unlocked the door with a key provided by the roommate.

The four deputies walk single file into the apartment, tailed by Beyer, and begin calling for Riehl to come out of his bedroom. Large items not there during their first visit have been thrown in the hallway entrance. Beyer begins removing the obstacles comprising the apparent barricade — a chair, a fan, an ironing board — by pulling them outside the apartment.

Deputies continue calling for Riehl to come out, making their way closer to his bedroom door, when he begins shooting at 5:57 a.m., the sheriff's office said.

A fire alarm sounds off.

“Get out, get out, get out,” shouts one officer.

“I'm hit,” says another, running down the stairs.

Beyer calls for SWAT and medical assistance as deputies Pelle and Doyle take cover.

While they wait for backup, the officers quickly administer aid to one another. Beyer ties a tourniquet around Doyle's left arm. Blood can be seen running down his hand. All the while Doyle is hunched over Pelle, who's lying on the ground with a chest wound. Each of the deputies was wearing a bulletproof vest, Spurlock said at a Dec. 31 news conference.

A shot rings out. They realize Riehl is shooting from his window. They run again for cover. Minutes later, Davis emerges a few buildings away. She runs toward them, yells that she too is shot, and begins helping Pelle. She yells at him to stay away, to keep talking, before the deputies can load him into Beyer's car.

Beyer dashes Doyle and Pelle away from the scene in his vehicle when they're met by Littleton fire and paramedic crews. Davis remains to cover the scene. Beyer drops his injured officers off and joins other officers heading back toward the scene.

“I don't have a good feeling about Parrish,” he says in the route back.

Once arriving at Riehl's apartment, multiple armed officers can be seen at the base of Riehl's apartment. Amid gunfire, one officer explains with Parrish still inside, Riehl can hear his radio.

“Parrish, can you hear me,” an officer yells. There are a few moments of silence before more explosions of gunfire.

“Parrish,” he calls out once the shooting ceases.

Still, silence.


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