Douglas County

Cops, university warned of suspect in shooting that left deputy dead, six others wounded

By Jessica Gibbs
Posted 1/1/18

As the investigation continued into the New Year's Eve shooting that left one sheriff's deputy dead and four officers and two civilians injured, details about the suspect emerged.

Douglas County …

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Douglas County

Cops, university warned of suspect in shooting that left deputy dead, six others wounded


As the investigation continued into the New Year's Eve shooting that left one sheriff's deputy dead and four officers and two civilians injured, details about the suspect emerged.

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock at first did not name the gunman who killed 29-year-old deputy Zackari Parrish, a husband and father of two, only saying he was known to law enforcement during a Dec. 31 news conference.

MORE: Vigil for a fallen deputy

The coroner officially identified the suspect as 37-year-old Matthew Riehl later that day. Riehl was shot to death by SWAT officers after unleashing at least 100 rounds on officers at a Highlands Ranch apartment complex early that morning. He did not have a criminal record prior to the event.

Riehl exchanged gunfire with law enforcement for nearly two hours before he was shot and killed inside the apartment.

Riehl was a veteran who served in Iraq and a law school graduate in Wyoming who made a slew of posts on social media to complain about local law enforcement in the months leading up to the shooting.

Deidre Forster, a spokeswoman for the Wyoming National Guard, said Riehl entered the Army Reserves in 2003 and the Wyoming National Guard in 2006. He was deployed to Iraq for a year in 2009 and was honorably discharged in 2012.

Chad Baldwin, a spokesman for the University of Wyoming, confirmed Riehl was a 2010 graduate of the university's law school. Riehl became the subject of an investigation by school police, however, after Baldwin said he made "alarming" social media posts mentioning the university's law school and some of its employees.

University police opened an investigation into the posts in the fall, which included communication with Colorado law enforcement, Baldwin said. The school also increased security for the law school and warned students, faculty and staff about Riehl's behavior.

In a Nov. 6 email from Assistant Dean Lindsay Hoyt, students were asked to notify university police if they saw Riehl or his vehicle near the law school.

"There have been no direct threats to faculty, staff or students, but as a precaution, students are being notified of this situation," the email said.

Drawing closer to the Dec. 31 shooting, numerous videos were posted to a YouTube account belonging to Riehl.

In the posts, mostly uploaded in November and December, he frequently grinned at the camera, making most of his commentary from dimly lit rooms on topics ranging from Google Chromecast to video games, and including a 5-minute video of him practicing with a yo-yo.

In one YouTube post, he shared a tutorial for sharpening knives, where several can be seen on a tabletop, and in another, alleged law enforcement officers drive "stolen" Dodge vehicles.

But Riehl also used his YouTube account to call out members of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office and the Lone Tree Police Department by name.

In one instance, Riehl wears an Iraqi Freedom veterans cap while lambasting Spurlock, claiming he planned to run against Spurlock for sheriff, and called one deputy a "pimp."

Riehl also filmed himself playing body camera footage he obtained from a November incident where a Lone Tree police officer stopped him for speeding.

In one of the videos he uploaded about the traffic stop, he displays the body camera footage on a projector screen while he explains his version of events. He describes the officer as "harassing" him, lying to him and calls for the officer to be fired. He also called the cop "dirty" in a video title.

Sgt. Tim Beals with the Lone Tree Police Department confirmed the authenticity of the body camera footage and said the police department conducted an investigation into the traffic stop in response to Riehl's complaints. They found no wrongdoing by the officer.

"Per his request, we actually provided that to him," Beals said of the body camera video. "We responded with the information he wanted as far as the body camera footage, which he has a right to have. We had some interaction via emails and he just wasn't satisfied with the answers we provided."

Beals said in the past several weeks, Riehl contacted him, city courts and reached out to the agency through social media in hopes of getting the ticket dismissed. Riehl also missed a court appearance scheduled in recent weeks, Beals said.

"We were aware that he wasn't happy with the Lone Tree Police Department and internally we had sent out some information to our officers to exercise caution should they come into contact with him," Beals said.

In a statement released Jan. 1, the police department said once Riehl's behavior escalated, they alerted the sheriff's office. 

"At that point, the Lone Tree Police Department immediately contacted the Douglas County Sheriff's Office to investigate given that a Lone Tree police officer was being targeted by the suspect's harassing communication," the statement said.

Beals said the police department is "fully supporting" the Douglas County Sheriff's Office following the incident.

"It's just tragic," he said. "Regardless of the information leading up to these events, the outcome is just absolutely tragic, and you know as an agency our hearts just go out to the families of those involved."

An outpouring of support for the wounded victims and the Parrish family flooded social media in the wake of the shooting, including on a GoFundMe page that as of Jan. 1 had collected more than $200,000 in donations for the Parrish family.

The campaign organizer Tyler Scott wrote on the website Parrish was a "true God-fearing man, who was a role model, father, husband and public servant."

An investigation into the shooting, including what motivated Riehl to open fire on officers, is ongoing. The 18th Judicial District's Critical Response Team is leading that investigation, according to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office Facebook page.

Highlands Ranch Colorado, Matthew Riehl, Zackari Parrish, Douglas County Sheriff's Office, #CopperCanyonOIS


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