Lethal force used in Manitou Springs fatal police shooting was justified, DA review finds

A man who fired at officers and deputies in Manitou Springs was shot 22 times in an exchange of gun fire and police were justified in their use of lethal force, according to an investigation and review of the police shooting.

The El Paso County District Attorney’s Office recently completed its review of the April 11 shooting, which killed Wilford Robert Deweese.

Officers Levi Hoover and Jeffrey Schuelke, and deputies Daniel LeBaron and Ronnie Hancock “had an objectively reasonable belief that lesser degrees of force would be inadequate to neutralize the threat posed by Mr. Deweese” during the incident, the DA’s review said.

At about 11 p.m. on April 11 Schuelke and LeBaron responded to the Royal Tavern, 924 Manitou Ave., on a report of an intoxicated man who was brandishing a weapon at the bartender. The bartender had left the business out of fear and the two responding officers arrived, encountering Deweese in the 800 block of Manitou.

Deweese refused the officers requests to discuss the incident, the review said. He also refused commands to “keep his hands up.” After about ten minutes, deputies and troopers with the Colorado State Patrol arrived and took containment positions around Deweese.

Based on the stand off, community safety along a busy street, and the report of Deweese being armed, Hancock, who partnered with a police dog named Jinx, assumed “primary communication” with Deweese. Again, multiple commands were made for Deweese to show his hands and come towards the officers.

Deweese made a call on his cell phone, talking to a relative, saying that he was going to shoot the police dog, the review said.

After about another eight minutes of multiple warnings and commands, and no subsequent compliance, Hancock released Jinx on Deweese and the officers walked toward the suspect.

Deweese pulled a handgun from his pocket and fired, hitting Jinx in the head, killing the dog, according to the review. “Deweese then fired at officers as they moved down the walkway, and in response, Officers Hoover and Schuelke, and Deputies Hancock and LeBaron returned fire with their duty weapons.”

Deweese was shot 22 times, according to the review. He died at the scene. A Sig Sauer P365 9mm pistol, Deweese’s gun, was recovered along with nine 9mm shell casings from his gun.

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“Mr. Deweese died as the result of multiple gunshot wounds caused by the bullets fired by
responding law enforcement officers,” the review said. “The use of deadly physical force by Officers Hoover and Schuelke and Deputies Hancock and LeBaron was justified.”

Hancock attempted to utilize a less-lethal option in deploying Jinx, the review said. After shooting the dog, Deweese “opened fire on approaching officers.”

After completing a thorough review of the facts and evidence, including officers’ body camera footage and other independent video clips, the review of the police shooting “determined the use of deadly physical force…was justified based on all the facts and circumstance of this case under the law of the State of Colorado.”