In November, Wyoming College of Law campus officers called the Colorado police to express their concerns about soon-to-become gunman, Matthew Riehl.
They suggested that the 37-year-old attorney and Iraq war veteran displayed signs of mental illness, citing his rants as an example. Riehl had also posted videos in which he criticized Colorado law enforcement using explicit and aggressive terms.
Furthermore, Wyoming College of Law students had been warned about Riehl due to his social media posts that criticized some of the school's professors, using that same profane language used in his videos discussing law enforcement. Students had been advised to notify campus police if Riehl was seen close to campus and campus security had been increased.
Despite these numerous concerns, however, Riehl was never given a mental health evaluation. This is most likely due to Colorado statutes regarding indirect threats made by a dangerous person. "If someone is not making an immediate threat, they cannot be held for a mental evaluation. They are very tough cases," UW Police Chief Mike Samp said.
Campus security's concerns were validated when Colorado authorities responded to a complaint of verbal disturbance at an apartment complex in Highlands Ranch, almost 20 miles south of Denver. The caller stated the disturbance had involved two men, one of whom was Riehl, who the caller said was acting as though he was going to have a mental breakdown.
When the police arrived on the scene, however, they found no evidence of a crime and left. The responding deputies were later called back to the complex and granted permission to enter. When they reached Riehl's bedroom and tried to talk to him, Riehl opened fire.
"They all went down almost within seconds of each other, so it was more of an ambush-type of attack on our officers," County Sheriff Tony Spurlock stated.
Riehl fatally shot officer Zackari Parrish, while wounding the remaining deputies and injuring two civilians. He was able to fire more than 100 rounds before he was killed by a SWAT team.
While there are obvious laws in place to protect a citizen's privacy and rights, it doesn't change the fact that there had been multiple complaints made against Riehl before the shooting. The school had added extra security measures, students were instructed to call the police if he was seen by campus and he had posted multiple concerning and alarming videos, yet the police did nothing.
In order to do their job and take care of the citizens they are sworn to protect, the police force needs to take red flags, like the ones Riehl exhibited, into account and take appropriate action to ensure incidents like this do not happen.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Joshua Lott