Yesterday, we documented four recent officer-involved shootings in the metro area. Then, a few hours after the post was published, the 17th Judicial District DA's office released a decision letter regarding a fifth -- a May incident during which Joe Manuel Flores III, seen here, was hit in the leg following a three-bullet burst from a deputy's rifle.
The DA's conclusion? No charges will be filed against the deputy because the shots were deemed accidental. See photos, a video, the letter and details below.
On May 15, according to the letter, sent by district attorney Dave Young to Adams County Sheriff Doug Darr, a magistrate granted a no-knock search warrant for a house at 8510 Corona Street in Thornton.
The resident of the place was Flores, who is said to have been an active member of "Galiant Knights Insane" (often referred to in the press as "Gallant Knights Insane"), referred to as "a violent, Denver-based criminal enterprise involved in homicides, robbery, weapons, narcotic trafficking and other gang-related criminal activity." He reportedly has a record of arrests in numerous communities throughout the Denver area.
Flores, who allegedly bought half a kilo of powder cocaine every week and resold it as crack, was said to have been "very paranoid that law enforcement will raid his house" -- so much so that a confidential informant told officers he kept his drugs in a bucket in the bathroom, near a gallon of water, so they could be immediately flushed if the cops came knocking.
At the time, Flores was on a $250,000 bond pending sentencing for a drive-by shooting in 2012. He was considered armed, dangerous and a flight risk.
In an effort to catch Flores unaware, members of the Adams County Sheriff's Office SWAT team gathered early on May 17 to prepare for an assault that got underway at 7:19 a.m. with the use of a flash-bang device. As officers burst into the home, they saw what they believed to be Flores racing from a bedroom to the bathroom holding something in his hands that he tried to flush as Deputy Jeff Stovall moved in.
Stovall managed to take Flores to the floor, the narrative maintains, with both him and a cohort, Seargeant Michael McKinney, giving him verbal commands while trying to pin his arms behind his back. But Flores resisted, and during the subsequent struggle, Stovall's Colt M4 Commando M16 rifle went off, with a bullet ripping into the suspect's thigh.
After Flores was cuffed and transported to Denver Health (he was released the next day), officers searched the home and found plenty of interesting items, including three plastic bags that appeared to have been filled with cocaine, plus a handgun loaded with nine live rounds of hollow-point ammo and $2,300 in cash. But questions of his guilt or innocence are secondary in the letter to the matter of how Deputy Stovall's rifle went off.
The report says Stovall had been in full SWAT gear, with his M16 in "full automatic but in a 'very low ready' position at the time he went hands on with Joe Manuel Flores III in the bathroom" -- after which "the rifle discharged a three-round burst in rapid succession." However, the report states that "there is no evidence that Deputy Stovall had his finger on the trigger during the incident.
"Given the location of the tactical gear in relation to the position of Deputy Stovall's rifle," the report continues, "it is evident that the an object other than Deputy Stovall's finger pulled the trigger during the struggle with Joe Manuel Flores III."
Upon reaching this conclusion, DA Young next considers the prospect that Deputy Stovall might have been criminally negligent in the shooting before dismissing this option as well. "Because of the suspect's decision to ignore commands and run from the officers, it was impracticable for Deputy Stovall to secure his weapon to the safe position not knowing whether the suspect was armed with a weapon," he writes.
The bottom line? The "circumstances of the struggle and a number of obstacles present" demonstrate that "the weapon fired accidentally and not as a result of Deputy Stovall's conscious decision or failure to perceive a risk. Therefore, Deputy Stovall's actions resulting in injury to Joe Manuel Flores III do not amount to criminal negligence and there will be no criminal charges filed."
Below, see a 9News report on the case, followed by a larger version of Flores's mug shot and the complete decision letter.
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More from our News archive: "Video: Fourth recent officer-involved shooting targets burglar at detective's home."