DENVER — It began as a predawn call Sunday for the police to a disturbance at an apartment complex in a Denver suburb. It ended, officials said, in a fusillade of more than 100 rounds fired by a barricaded gunman who shot five law enforcement officers, killing one of them. The gunman was killed by officers.
Two civilians, who the sheriff said were apparently in a neighboring apartment, were also shot. Their injuries were not life-threatening.
Killed in the attack was Zackari Parrish, a 29-year-old deputy who had worked for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office for seven months, Sheriff Tony Spurlock said at an afternoon news conference. He described Parrish as a "smiley kid" who was eager to serve. He is survived by a wife and two young children.
Hours after the attack, numerous questions remained, including the public identification of the gunman, his motive, the type of weapon he used, what exactly happened leading up to the attack and where the officers were positioned in relation to the suspect.
The gunfire shattered a quiet New Year’s Eve morning at the Copper Canyon Apartments, which describes itself on its website as having some of the "friendliest apartments" in Highlands Ranch, Colo., which is about 15 miles south of Denver.
Police were first called to the apartment where the shooting occurred about 1:30 a.m. Sunday regarding a noise complaint but officers found nothing amiss.
About four hours later, police were called for what was described as a "domestic disturbance" the sheriff said. Officers quickly determined it was not a domestic situation but that the suspect was making a "ton of noise."
As outlined by the sheriff, what happened next was murky. The officers were talking to the suspect for about 30 minutes and at some point the gunman barricaded himself in a bedroom. The gunman then fired over 100 rounds, the sheriff said.
Parrish, three other deputies from the Sheriff’s Office and an officer from the Castle Rock Police Department were shot within seconds of one another, the sheriff said.
Parrish was shot multiple times. The other officers, who were hit in areas uncovered by their protective vests, were in stable condition, the sheriff said.
As the injured officers extricated themselves, the gunman continue to fire "for some time" until he was shot and killed by the officers, Spurlock said. He added that the gunman was known to authorities but he would not elaborate.
Still, Spurlock described what happened as "almost an ambush-type of attack" and said the gunman fired "very, very quickly" with a rifle, though it was unclear what type.
He predicted a prolonged investigation that would draw on footage from body cameras worn by the officers.
Family members of one of the wounded deputies, Jeff Pelle, rushed from their homes in Northern Colorado to the hospital after getting word he had been shot.
Pelle was in visible pain when his family saw him in the intensive care unit after he emerged from surgery, his sister, Shanna Jessen, said in a phone interview. Jessen said her brother had been shot under the armpit and the bullet had traveled down his torso to his hip. She said he was doing "remarkably well" after surgery.
A resident of the apartment complex, Steven Silknitter, rushed home from his weekend job as a truck driver when he heard about the shooting. He said he was trying to make his way past a police cordon when he heard what sounded like a fierce exchange of gunfire.
"Fifteen to 20 gunshots," he said. "Return fire and then more fire."
Silknitter, 50, described the apartment complex as a mix of families, couples and older residents.