Teen Austin Holzer May Claim He Killed Deputy in Self-Defense

Austin Holzer in a photo he posted to a now-deleted Facebook page the day before he shot Deputy Derek Geer. Additional images and more below.
Austin Holzer in a photo he posted to a now-deleted Facebook page the day before he shot Deputy Derek Geer. Additional images and more below. Facebook via The Daily Sentinel
Attorneys representing Austin Holzer, who killed Deputy Derek Geer last year after allegedly warning him, "Dude, you're gonna get fuckin' shot," have filed paperwork suggesting that they may claim self-defense in the case.

This revelation is the latest twist in a tragic case that will determine the future for Holzer, who was seventeen at the time of the homicide but is being tried as an adult.

At 11:06 a.m. on February 8, 2016, as we've reported in our previous coverage, deputies from the Mesa County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to the 500 block of Fruitvale Court, in the Grand Junction area.

The report: a male with a gun.

The suspect was said to have last been seen heading south across the Interstate 70 Business Loop and railroad tracks just to the south.

From the scene of the shooting. - KKCO FILE PHOTO
From the scene of the shooting.
KKCO file photo
This information was broadcast to law enforcers, and shortly thereafter, Geer spotted and contacted a male matching the description near the intersection of E Road and 30 1/2 Road.

After what the MCSO terms "a short interaction," Geer told the teen — Holzer — he would be detained as part of the investigation into the weapons report.

At that point, the suspect tried to rabbit, so Geer fired his Taser.

In response, the male allegedly opened fire on Geer, hitting him multiple times before fleeing on foot.

Geer was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he subsequently succumbed to his injuries. In the meantime, a dragnet was thrown out for Holzer, who was taken into custody a few minutes after noon.

In the days that followed, more information surfaced about Holzer, a onetime student at Grand Junction's Central High School. At the time of the shooting, according to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Holzer had been using a Facebook page headed "ET Went Home"; it listed him as an employee of Burger King. The page has since been deleted, as has a post that Holzer is said to have placed on the page of a Facebook group called Western Slope Guns.

The late Deputy Derek Geer. - MESA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
The late Deputy Derek Geer.
Mesa County Sheriff's Office
On February 4, he allegedly tried to trade assorted items for a handgun. The message read in part: “I have items like a flat screen tv, a pair of new Bushnell insta focus 10x30x50 binoculars and a full box of 270 win 150 grain power point bullets pm me!!”

Additionally, a onetime friend of Holzer's told the Sentinel that Holzer contacted him before the shooting in the hopes of obtaining rifle bullets.

Even more details were revealed in Holzer's arrest documents, which are accessible below. For instance, the report reveals that Holzer had an active warrant in his name for an unspecified sex offense and was listed as a runaway.

The account describes him as a meth-using gangster wannabe and quotes him as saying he wanted Geer to kill him and was disappointed that he used a Taser instead.

While speaking to authorities, the teen insisted that his first instinct was to shoot himself — but when that didn't work, he chose to fire at Geer instead, striking him three times in the face.

His description of what went down, as shared with investigators in the presence of his father, begins like so: "Walking down 29 Road...(unintelligible)...crossed the street. Cop pulled me over and asked me if I just crossed the street like thirty minutes ago and then he says, 'Oh yeah, thirty minutes ago'...(unintelligible)...put my coat on...I went to put my coat on. He said, 'Don't put that on, man.' I said, 'Why not? Am I being detained?' And he's like, 'Yes, you are,' and that's when he tased me, and then I had my hand on my belt when he tased me and...(unintelligible)...I could not get my hand out of my pants and off my belt and he kept yelling at me and asking me to. So that's when I decided to shoot myself."

A 2011 Facebook photo of Austin Holzer. - FACEBOOK
A 2011 Facebook photo of Austin Holzer.
This plan "didn't work," Holzer continued, "and at that point, I tried to pull the gun out and shoot him. Didn't work the first time and then I cocked the gun again and shot three times and I saw blood just coming out of his face. So I ran and jumped the fence and hid in some shrubs."

The next time through the account, Holzer added more details.

"I had my gun in my pocket, but I wasn't trying to grab for that," he maintained. "I was trying to...(unintelligible)...because that Taser really hurts. And I had my hand on my belt and I don't know what was caught on it, but it was scaring me because I couldn't get it off and I had, like, a seizure or, like, some shit, and I couldn't.... He thought I was trying to shoot him and I was trying to shoot myself. And then I tried to shoot him and it got to him."

Holzer claimed that he told Geer, "'Dude, you're gonna get fuckin' shot,' and he said, 'Please shoot me' [sic], and I cocked it back again and shot him three times in the face."

While hiding, Holzer said he reloaded his gun, in part because he didn't want to be taken into custody.

"Too scared of being in jail for too long," he allowed, in reference to his knowledge about the arrest warrant for him. "I've been in jail...fuckin' a....facility and I fuckin' hated it. Hated all my life. I'd rather run then get caught by a cop. That's why I wanted him to shoot me. I knew I was going to jail. I was like, 'Just shoot me, please, just please.' He wouldn't do it. He wouldn't shoot me. Couldn't even shoot myself."

Another image from the crime scene. - KKCO FILE PHOTO
Another image from the crime scene.
KKCO file photo
The latest? In a new report, the Sentinel notes that public defenders Sheryl Uhlmann and Scott Burrill, who represent Holzer, have filed a motion asking the judge in the case for the MCSO's use-of-force procedures, particularly as they apply to calls involving weapons.

"A person may assert self-defense, even when the alleged victim is a peace officer," one section of the motion reads. "The evidence likely to be presented at trial will indicate that Deputy Geer utilized force in the form of a Taser, causing Austin Holzer to be in fear of the use of imminent excessive force against him. At the time of his contact with Deputy Geer, Austin Holzer was not under arrest for any crime."

This is hardly the only interesting tactic being utilized by Uhlmann and Burrill on behalf of Holzer.

The court has already granted the lawyer's request to separate charges against Holzer, with one trial to hear about counts related to Geer's slaying, another to consider his failure to register as a sex offender, and a third to weigh in on accusations that he stole some guns. On top of that, the Sentinel reports, the attorneys are seeking a change in venue, to move the proceedings out of Mesa County, and have also asked that evidence related to Holzer's criminal history be withheld from the jury.

Whether the self-defense strategy will actually be deployed is uncertain at this point. But it's already clear that Holzer's legal team is taking an unusual approach to a tragic case.

Click to read the Austin Holzer arrest warrant. Look below to see his booking photo.

Austin Holzer's mug shot. - MESA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
Austin Holzer's mug shot.
Mesa County Sheriff's Office

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts