Sam Brownlee: Read report on Weld County deputy's death, how it could've been prevented

Last November, Sam Brownlee became the first Weld County deputy to die in the line of duty since 1940 when he was shot and killed by Reuben Reyes, twenty, following a high-speed chase. Now, an uncommonly frank review of the incident has been released, and the three-person panel behind it suggest that a communication error may have led to the tragedy. Read the document below. Reyes, a gang member on probation, allegedly stole a car in Fort Morgan during a domestic dispute. However, the report states that "Fort Morgan Police elected not to pursue because Reyes had been positively identified and an arrest warrant could be obtained."

Shortly thereafter, an officer in the Town of Wiggins saw Reyes's vehicle go past and began to follow it. A member of the Morgan County force joined in, likely prompting increases in speed that ultimately topped 100 miles per hour. When he neared a Weld County location, he radioed that the suspect was dangerous and possibly armed -- an assumption based on comments from Reyes's family that he might be suicidal, because he didn't want to go back to prison. Turns out Reyes had no weapon, but the opposite conclusion was enforced by a subsequent Weld County radio call:

"Morgan County asking for assistance. They're at Hwy 13 and CR 87 westbound on a... it's Hwy 34 and CR 87 on a high speed chase. They're chasing a 2006 Black Nissan suspect in a dangerous, possibly armed, robbery. They're on MAC 7."

Had this communique not implied that Reyes was armed and had engaged in robbery, the chase might have been halted. Instead, it continued, with Brownlee ultimately being shot to death with his own gun, not one Reyes had on his person.

The panel ultimately makes seven recommendations for improvements intended to prevent such a situation from spinning out of control again. Here's the first:

1. On-duty supervisors and deputies must give greater weight to the risk a pursuit represents to the public and themselves

a. Current pursuit procedure operational considerations provide adequate guidance but need more consistent application and accountability

b. Training should be enhanced to include annual objective evaluation of decision making in response to a range of scenarios including the identification of alternatives to pursuit

Read the entire document below:

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Christian Benshoof and Ashley Johnson: DA says bloody shootout that killed these two bank robbers justified."

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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