A Montrose Police officer acted in self-defense when he opened fire on Gilbert Garcia during a standoff at the Holiday Inn Sept. 12, the district attorney has found.
No criminal charges will be filed against Officer Taylor Deines, District Attorney Dan Hotsenpiller announced Friday.
“I find that the use of force by Montrose Police Officer Taylor Deines on Sept. 12 was justified pursuant to Colorado law. Because the evidence and the applicable law do not support any cause to believe Officer Deines committed a criminal act, no criminal charges should be or will be filed against Officer Deines,” Hotsenpiller said in a statement announcing his decision.
Garcia is charged with attempted second-degree murder; assault on a peace officer; felony menacing; possession of a weapon by a previous offender; drug possession and as a special offender with a deadly weapon.
He allegedly entered the hotel early Sept. 12, brandished a firearm after he was denied a room, and holed up in a conference room, which brought the police to the business. Hotel guests were evacuated as Special Weapons and Tactics responded.
As SWAT closed in, Garcia allegedly pointed his gun at Deines, who shot him in the hand. Deines, at the time a three-year MPD veteran, was not injured.
Investigators said they later recovered a handgun and a substance alleged to be methamphetamine.
According to allegations in an arrest affidavit the Montrose Daily Press obtained in September, Garcia tested positive for ecstasy and meth. Police also said he made suicidal statements throughout the standoff.
The 7th Judicial District Critical Incident Investigation Team looked into the matter, as is standard procedure when there is an officer-involved shooting. The team forwarded its information to the DA on Dec. 1.
Hotsenpiller, Deputy DA Jason Wilson and DA’s chief investigator Duane Morton reviewed the evidence and determined Deines had acted in self-defense.
In Colorado, it is self-defense when a person acts on the reasonable belief that he or she is acting against the use of unlawful force of another. Potentially lethal force may be used upon reasonable belief that there is imminent danger of loss of life or great bodily injury, and that lesser force would be inadequate.
If self-defense is raised, prosecutors have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person’s conduct was not self-defense.
Deines’ on-duty conduct fell within the bounds of self-defense and justified use of force, Hotsenpiller determined.
“I think the findings are consistent with what we believed in the initial reporting of the incident,” said Montrose Police Chief Blaine Hall, who was a commander at the time of the shooting.
“We’re grateful for the 7th Judicial District Critical Incident Investigation Team for taking so much time and effort into investigating this, because officer-involved shootings are some of the most important, if not the most important, investigations to ensure we are conducting ourselves appropriately.
“In this case, I had full belief that Officer Deines had acted appropriately, but it’s great that we now have a full investigation to support that finding.”
The eight-person investigatory team was composed of people from eight agencies within the 7th Judicial District; four Colorado Bureau of Investigation agents; two CBI crime scene techs and a CBI analyst.
Although Hotsenpiller could not comment on the evidence or release the full report because Garcia’s case is ongoing, he did praise the critical incident team’s thoroughness.
“I really appreciated there were eight sworn officers and lab personnel who helped process the crime scene and did all the forensic work,” he said.
“They do that on short notice. I think our whole judicial district is very well served by having this team. We’ve seen that because our law enforcement executives are using the team more and more, for all sorts of investigations, not just officer-involved shootings.”
The team has been convened for officer-involved traffic incidents, traffic pursuits, in-custody deaths and suicides that occur when police are on a scene.
“It’s important the public knows this team is out there, ready to go to work at any time,” Hotsenpiller said.
Hall thanked Hotsenpiller for his prompt review of the team’s evidence.
“These things are stressful, both on an agency and in particular, on the officer that’s involved,” he said.
The 7th Judicial District Critical Incident Investigation Team continues its probe of an unrelated Thanksgiving Day shooting in Gunnison County.
In that matter, Colorado State Patrol Trooper Joshua Boden responded to a single-vehicle crash on Colorado 135. The crash response turned into a DUI investigation, during which driver Patrick Michael Langhoff, 59, reportedly brandished a firearm and was fatally shot.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is an award-winning journalist and the senior writer for the Montrose Daily Press. Follow her on Twitter @kathMDP.