There's no dispute about who killed Phillip Pfleghardt.
Broomfield Police Department Officer Joel Waight fired multiple shots at the suspected bank robber, striking him twice.
The first bullet entered Pfleghardt's right forearm, coming to rest near his elbow.
The second projectile went through the left side of his head, causing his death, although apparently not instantly. In his account of the incident, contained in a decision letter issued under the signature of 17th Judicial District DA Dave Young (it's on view below), Waight said that Pfleghardt "made a motion like a 'shrug'" before "he started to fall down."
A gruesome series of events — and one justified under law, Young has concluded.
Here are the details about what went down.
At 3:27 p.m. on September 11, the incident overview states, the communications center affiliated with the BPD detected a robbery alarm from the TCF Bank, located at 4036 West 144th Avenue.
The alarm was triggered by a GPS tracker — and the signal soon began to move away from the bank.
Two minutes later, employees at the bank confirmed that they'd just been robbed, with subsequent accounts revealing that the suspect had not only possessed a firearm but discharged it during the course of the heist.
There was no initial information about a vehicle associated with the robbery, but six minutes after the alarm sounded, Officer Waight radioed in to say that he was following a white Ford truck sans license plates.
Marijuana Deals Near You
The truck was traveling westbound on West 144th Avenue near the Aspen Street intersection — which is approximately where it stopped. Then, about seventeen seconds after Waight called in to report this development, he reached out again.
"Shots fired, suspect down, shots fired, just west of Aspen," he said.
What took place between Waight's two calls? The voluminous decision letter includes nine witness statements, none of which contradict Waight's account in any significant way.
As for Waight, he told investigators assigned to the district's critical incident team that after hearing the report about the TCF robbery, he headed to the area near the bank and spotted the truck, whose route appeared to correspond with GPS tracker pings.
Upon seeing that the truck lacked license plates, Waight hit his lights and siren and, after a U-turn, pulled up behind the vehicle, which he said was "wiggling" in its lane before it pulled over to the side of the road.
An instant later, Waight continued, he noticed that the driver's side door of the truck was "wide open" — and by the time the officer was able to step free of his cruiser, he could see the driver — Pfleghardt — was standing outside and had squared up to face him.
He also spotted the muzzle of Pfleghardt's gun.
Here's an excerpt from the decision letter:
At that point, Officer Waight heard a gunshot and realized that the suspect had just shot at him. Officer Waight returned fire, firing multiple rounds at the suspect. Officer Waight indictated that this happened quickly. He said that the suspect was still facing him with the gun still pointed at him, when the suspect made a motion like a "shrug," and then he started to fall down. Once this happened, Officer Waight said he stopped firing.
At the scene, BPD personnel recovered a 9mm Beretta semi-automatic handgun near the truck's tire, plus an additional .41 caliber Ruger six-shot revolver, $1,536 in bundled money and a pair of GPS trackers accompanied by another $80 in bills.
By this accounting, Pfleghardt died for $1,616 in cash.
Pfleghardt's final brush with law-enforcement was one of many. The letter documents sixteen felony cases dating back to 1997 and eleven felony convictions, with offenses including felony theft from an at-risk adult, felony, forgery, first-degree aggravated motor-vehicle theft and more.
Also quizzed was Pfleghardt's estranged wife, who hadn't spoken to him since October 2014. The letter quotes her as saying "he skipped out on his bail and never showed up for court. She said Mr. Pfleghardt told her he was never going back to prison. She said that in that last phone call, he told her goodbye."
The conclusion of the decision letter begins like so: "Officer Waight reasonably believed that Phillip Pfleghardt used or was immediately about to use unlawful deadly physical force against him or another person; that belief was reasonable in light of the totality of the facts and circumstances of this incident."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Read the entire letter below.