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Inside Cop Brian Mullen's Shooting of an Adams County Deputy

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In December, we told you about a triple murder for which Furmen Leyba and Gabriel Flores were arrested. During that bust, an Adams County deputy, later identified as Mike Robbins, was shot, apparently by friendly fire. Now, the Denver District Attorney's Office has released its decision-letter about the incident (see it below), and the document confirms that a Thornton police officer, Brian Mullen, accidentally plugged Robbins — and Leyba, though armed, didn't squeeze off a single shot. However, the DA's office sees no rationale for filing criminal charges against Robbins.

Early on Wednesday, December 10, as we've reported, authorities found three bodies in a house at 21 Cragmore Street, southeast of Federal Heights. The area is captured in the following interactive graphic; if you have problems seeing the image, click "View Larger Map."

View Larger Map

The cops' reasons for visiting the home are described by CBS4's Rahel Solomon in the following tweet: 

 The station shared this excerpt from radio dispatch:

Dispatch: I'm getting an unknown medical...DOA 21 Cragmore...female very hysterical ... saying someone took her money then stating three people DOA on scene.

Responder: Okay, 21 Cragmore...no history...go back further.

Dispatch: Need you to go to Cragmore...party hysterical...keeps hanging up.

Dispatch: Possible homicide suspect...reference shooting this morning at 21 Cragmore...suspect in black Jeep — two-door, hard top, Hispanic male wearing white shirt, black sweatpants.

This vehicle description was key. The next afternoon, Jacki Kelley, public information officer for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, shared a tweet of her own, accompanied by an intriguing statement:

Additional details were shared by 7News. The pursuit was said to have taken place shortly before 4 p.m., with the driver piloting the Jeep onto a Hayden Park walking trail, where the vehicle lost a bumper, before turning onto Rooney Road. Kelley told the station one of the Jeep's windows was broken by deputies before a male driver and a female passenger were taken into custody. 9News reports that one of these two has been arrested — and it turned out to be Flores.

Meanwhile, law-enforcers began searching for Furmen Leyba, thirty, in connection with the crimes — and on December 12, Adams County deputies found him in what was generically described as "the north Denver area;" the actual location was near the intersection of 40th and Bryant. Leyba was taken into custody, but an Adams County detective — Robbins — was wounded by gunfire. As seen in this CBS4 image, he was hit in the arm.

What led to the shooting? The decision letter says that a Crime Stoppers tip on December 12 suggested that Leyba was at an apartment complex near 88th Avenue and Washington Street. Officers from assorted agencies gathered near there — hence the involvement of Thornton officer Mullen. But shortly thereafter, the pinging of Furmen's cell phone showed him to be further south, in Denver. He appeared to have gone to several locations before settling down near 40th and Bryant.

The police presence moved there, with a surveillance team subsequently spotting someone who resembled Leyba with a second person (later ID'd as Vanessa Sanchez-Lopez) riding what's described as a "black mini-bike" — a small motorcycle. When the pair saw their pursuers, they ditched the motorcycle, at which point Robbins is said to have drawn his gun and yelled, "Police! Don't move!"

Instead, Leyba and the Sanchez-Lopez took off, with Robbins and a fellow cop, Adams County Detective Daniel Monares, following into an alley, not knowing that Mullen, with another law-enforcer, Thornton Sergeant Chris Fusetti, were heading to the same spot in pursuit of the twosome. Fusetti describes what happened next:

I see a male subject run out from behind the fence, um, toward us. So, I go all the way into park, I open my truck door [and] I’m drawing my gun and I come out to the edge of the truck door and I am, uh, drawing my weapon on him. We’re yelling “get down! Get down! Get down!” At that point, um, my truck hood is kind of blocking my vision, but I see this torso kind of go down behind [in front] of my truck. Um, at that exact same time, I am here [demonstrating how he was holding his handgun on the suspect in front of the truck] and I see, from my peripheral vision a, a gun coming out from behind the fence. Um, and then I hear shots starting to be fired from my right. And, as that’s happening, um, I kinda look up and the figure comes out from behind the fence and he, kind of, turns a little bit, and as he turns a little bit, I could see what I thought was a badge on his, um, I don’t recall if it was a coat or a shirt, but I thought a saw a badge there [indicating the upper chest], so I started yelling at Brent, um, “Cease fire! Cease fire! Cease fire! Friendly! Friendly! Friendly!” And then I’m yelling at those guys, “Crossfire! Crossfire! Crossfire!” And I start backing up, toward the rear of my truck. Uh, because at that point I was afraid that if there were other officers behind that fence they might start returning fire toward us, um, so I was trying to take cover.

The shots Fusetti heard were fired by Mullen from his position in the front passenger seat of his vehicle; he'd mistaken Robbins and Monares for Leyba and Sanchez-Lopez. Mullen wound up firing seven times in all, with none of the bullets hitting Leyba. But one did impact Robbins, who suffered a gunshot wound to his lower left arm; it was fractured by the impact.

Did this action constitute criminal negligence on Robbins's part? Not according to Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, who was tasked with reviewing the shooting. His conclusion reads in part:

The investigators were attempting to apprehend Fermin Leyba, a dangerous felon suspected in a triple homicide in which handguns were the weapons of choice. Det. Mullen had every reason to believe Leyba was one of the two people on the motorcycle he and his partner were following and every reason to believe Leyba was armed. There were two people on the motorcycle and, because, Sgt. Fusetti and Det. Mullen had lost sight of the motorcycle briefly, Det. Mullen had no basis for knowing the two people who came through the fence break were not the same two individuals who he and his partner had been following. Det. Robbins was not wearing anything which readily identified him as a police officer and he, like the second person on the motorcycle, was dressed in dark clothing. Det. Mullen’s belief that he and his partner were at risk of being shot was, in light of these facts, objectively reasonable. 

Hence, no criminal charges will be filed in the case. Here are booking photos for Leyba and Flores, followed by the complete decision letter.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

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