Hours after the January 24 murder of Adams County Deputy Heath Gumm, the name and a past booking photo of arrested suspect Dreion Martise Dearing began to surface in local and national media reports. But in the wake of a tweet asking several Denver outlets to remove the mug shot or any reference to Dearing, Adams County Sheriff Mike McIntosh essentially castigated the press for compromising the Gumm investigation, even though all of the information appears to have been obtained from official law enforcement sources.
Some outlets have complied with McIntosh's demand to at least temporarily erase Dearing from coverage, while others have not. Among the members of the latter category is the Denver Post, the most notable holdout in November, when other media tried to forget the name of thirteen-year-old shooting suspect Javeon Brown after blasting it out for a full day.
As in the Brown instance, the horse is definitely out of the barn when it comes to the tragic Gumm case. McIntosh clearly prefers that all allusions to Dearing be scrubbed from the Internet, but a Google search conducted earlier this morning generated 2,190 hits on his full name alone, and a Colorado Department of Corrections image of him from a previous arrest is easily accessible.
As we've reported, ACSO deputies, including Gumm, responded to a report of an assault in progress at 6:58 p.m. on the 24th. The location: on or near the 8700 block of Dawson Street in Thornton.
Shortly after their arrival, deputies contacted a male who matched a suspect description. At that point, the suspect ran from the deputies and headed behind a house in the area. The deputies gave chase, and when they caught up with the suspect, he allegedly produced a handgun and opened fire.
One of the deputies, later identified as Gumm, was struck in the chest. He was transported to Denver Health Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. He was 32 years old and married. Original reports stated that Gumm joined the Adams County Sheriff's Office in 2013, but yesterday, the sheriff's office tweeted that he actually came aboard in 2012.
In the meantime, Gumm's colleagues were able to arrest the man thought to be the shooter; he had fled on foot after the deputy was struck. Two additional suspects, described by witnesses as light-skinned black males or dark-skinned Hispanic males, were also being sought, and at this writing, they remain on the loose.
Over the course of the next day, January 25, more and more news agencies began reporting that the suspect in custody was Dearing. 9News obtained a probable-cause statement in a previous Dearing bust....
...and the Post also published details of his past criminal record. Just shy of his 18th birthday, Dearing was arrested for joining another teen in the beating of a man outside a convenience store in Montbello, causing the victim to suffer a brain hemorrhage. That case was subsequently dismissed, the Post states, but Dearing earned a four-year jolt (later lowered to two years in Colorado's Youthful Offender System) for pushing a woman down on the 16th Street Mall and stealing her iPad.
The Adams County Sheriff's Office was clearly not thrilled by this info getting out. At 2:32 p.m., the ACSO tweeted the following: "Attention all media @9NEWS @FOX31 @CBS4_News @DenverChannel @denverpost Please remove any mug shot or reference to a suspect. You could be compromising a murder investigation."
Sheriff McIntosh expanded on this theme at a press conference later in the afternoon.
"You may ask about a photo of the suspect we have," McIntosh told the assembled journalists. "You may ask about the name of a suspect we have. And I know that information is out there. But I am not going to confirm or deny that."
Here's a clip of the full press conference. The quote above begins near the six-and-a-half-minute mark.
By way of an explanation of his stance, McIntosh stressed that "there are still investigative interviews that we need to do. A photo of somebody can be critically important to an investigation, to make sure that we cover all of our bases. I'm asking you, until we get those interviews done, not to share the photo that you have. I know some of you already have. But it's making our investigation of a murder of a police officer more difficult. You tie our hands when you jump ahead of us in the manner that some of the media outlets have done."
Note that McIntosh doesn't address the agencies that provided this information to the press — possibly including his own. Instead, he holds the media responsible.
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"I understand that there's a need, a want and a desire to inform our community, and I am 100 percent with you," he insisted. "I want to make sure that our community knows that we are doing everything we can to keep them safe as we investigate this homicide of our deputy. But I just want to reiterate that I am not going to compromise our investigation by releasing information too soon that would do just that. And I'm asking you to partner with me to do that, so we can make sure that as this goes to court and it goes through the legal process that identification, which can usually be a big deal, is no issue, because we partnered together to make sure we released the information at the proper time."
As for other facts provided by McIntosh, the most important arguably pertained to the two suspects at large. He said they were involved in the original assault for which the deputies were called to the scene, but seem not to have had anything to do with the fatal shooting of Gumm.
Given that, it's very difficult to understand why McIntosh believes having Dearing's name and photo in the public eye could hurt the investigation. Then again, office personnel certainly seem to be reeling from the attention garnered by the shooting. At 5:39 p.m. yesterday, the ACSO account tweeted a plea for "no more media requests today. No more additional information."
At this writing, Denver7 has removed Dearing's name and photo from its coverage. But Fox31 and CBS4 still have posts with his name on their respective websites, and the Post hasn't removed either his moniker or his mug shot.