Last month, we told you about the police killing at a Denver funeral home of Ryan Ronquillo, a suspected car thief who was slated to attend the viewing of a deceased friend.
Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey has now released a decision letter -- see it below -- declaring the shoot justified. This stands in stark contrast to the reaction from attendees at a weekend fundraiser and impromptu march, including Ronquillo's sister, who can be seen on a video shared here saying the police murdered her brother and declaring the cops to be "fucking Nazis."
The decision letter includes photos from the scene. We've included a number of them below, featuring DA's office text.
On July 2, according to the document, investigators with the Safe Streets Task Force were conducting fugitive apprehension operations when they were asked to aid in locating and apprehending Ronquillo, who is said to have been wanted for a June 29 domestic violence episode. In addition, he's described as an "active car thief who stole 'Hondas, Acuras and Subarus.'"
At around 3 p.m., task forcers received information that Ronquillo was in an area west of I-25 in the I-70 corridor, the letter continues -- and at about 5 p.m., they narrowed the search down to an area near the intersection of 37th Avenue and Osage Street. An undercover officer saw him "sitting in a stolen black Honda stopped or parked at that location."
The plan was to apprehend Ronquillo there -- but before officers could do so, he drove off. He allegedly back-tracked at least once before pulling into a parking lot at 4750 Tejon Street.
A footnote points out that the lot belonged to Romero's Family Funeral Home and a service was going on at the time.
At that point, a detective entered the parking lot from the south, while a sergeant driving a silver Lexus SUV drove in from the north, activating his emergency lights as the detective made "bumper contact" with Ronquillo's Honda before dismounting and walking to the car's passenger side. But before the detective could grab him, Ronquillo is said to have shifted the Honda into reserve and zoomed away at "a high rate of speed."
The sergeant was grazed by Ronquillo's car, the report states. Then the Honda "backed over a small earthen berm, across the sidewalk and into an unmarked car driven by Detective Toni Trujillo, which was stopped in the middle of the street."
The first detective was now in front of the Honda, and if it moved forward, he believed it would strike him. At that point, he pulled his handgun as other shots rang out. Shots were fired by Trujillo, dressed in plain clothes, as well as uniformed gang unit officers Brian Marshall, Daniel White and Jeffrey DiManna. Ronquillo died as a result of the fusillade.
In DiManna's account, he said he'd issued "loud verbal commands-- you know, 'Shut off the car! Shut off the car!' And he's still revving the engine, revving the engine. And he slams it into drive, uh, Detective Trujillo was right next to me and we were both, poten.... We were both, coulda been in the line of the vehicle.... From where we were standing we were both put in, uh, the line of the vehicle. So, in fear for my safety -- in fear for Detective Trujillo's life, uh, I heard one of her roun.... I heard her fire one round and I shortly fired right after her."
The decision letter references surveillance footage of the incident and asserts that "the statements of the witnesses are largely corroborative of those provided by the involved and witness officers." As such, Morrisey's conclusion is particularly harsh toward Ronquillo. An excerpt:
This incident is a direct result of choices made by Ronquillo: He first chose to steal a car. He then chose to flee despite almost no viable options -- backing up and hitting two private cars, one occupied by several members of a family, then running into a police car. He then chose to drive forward toward armed law enforcement officers who had given him repeated commands to stop and repeated opportunities to surrender. As noted previously, the violence of his actions can be seen in the surveillance video; that fact that no civilians and only one officer was injured is remarkable.
"Based on the facts presented here, each officer's individual decision to use the degree of force he or she used was objectively reasonable and, accordingly, must be considered justifiable under Colorado law," Morrissey adds. "Accordingly, I will not file criminal charges against the officers involved in this incident."
This result incensed many police critics, as well as Ronquillo's family.
Complaints about the shooting arose immediately afterward. As we've reported, additional officers had to be called to keep the peace at the funeral home, and at a press conference from the scene, Lieutenant Matt Murray, a DPD spokesman, was interrupted by a man holding a child, who shouted, "The cops came and killed him at a funeral home! He's mourning his best friend's loss! You guys rode up and shot him in the parking lot. We were standing out there, and you shot him over there, guys, and our kids were out there, too!"
"Almost ran over a little girl!" interjected a second bystander.
Asked the first man: "Is that how you guys do it now?"
Similar sentiments were voiced during a fundraiser for Ronquillo staged this past Friday. Speakers included Ronquillo's mother and sister, who expressed their grief and rage from the stage of the Atzlan Theatre.
Afterward, attendees took part in a march, encountering police along the way, as seen in this screen capture of a video on view below....
...and this one:
A fundraising page entitled Justice for Ryan Ronquillo! encapsulates many of the accusations being made. The page's text reads in part:
Police allege that they were in the process of serving a warrant for "auto-theft and other felonies", and that Ryan "started to back the car in the direction of officers." Statements from witnesses are at odds with the police statements. Witnesses at the scene describe a horrific chaotic mess. Many in attendance did not even know who the individuals shooting at Ryan were, let alone that they were even police officers.
Other witnesses claim that Ryan was left to die, choking on his own blood, as police denied medical help at the scene and instead waited for paramedics to arrive before any aid was administered.
Ryan was unarmed and suspected of participating in non-violent offenses. Although police considered him a "flight risk," no statements from Denver officials or the police indicate that there was any suspicion of Ryan being dangerous or armed.
Police claim that they had been following him all day in an effort to serve the warrant. They claim that they chose the funeral, where dozens of people, including many small children were in attendance, because it proved "tactically beneficial." In the end, instead of a peaceful arrest anywhere else, people who were already in the process of mourning one lost youth had to witness the murder of another.
Following Ryan's death, his family was not even contacted by Denver police or officials. They had to find out about the death of their son from his friends and media reports.
Look below to see the aforementioned video, followed by the decision letter and a previous booking photo of Ronquillo.
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