Why Adrian Moya Got the Maximum for Shooting a Cop

Update: In September, Adrian Moya pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder in regard to a gun battle last December between him and a Northglenn police officer. Each of them were shot multiple times, but both survived — and in April, the officer, who'd been wearing a ballistic vest that likely saved his life, was cleared of any wrongdoing by the 17th Judicial District DA's office. See our previous coverage below.

Moya's guilty plea carried with it a stipulated sentence of between twenty and 32 years.

Now that sentence has been formalized — and given that the person Moya shot was a police officer, it's unsurprising that the punishment he received settled at the maximum end of this scale. He's been ordered to spend the next 32 years behind bars.

Find out why in our original report.

Original post, 9:55 a.m. April 27: There have been no shortage of police shootings in the Denver metro area of late.

In fact, one took place last night in Lakewood, with the suspect winding up dead; get early details at the bottom of this post.

Nonetheless, criminal charges against officers in such cases are exceedingly rare even when the circumstances are potentially controversial, as was true in two incidents we've covered this month — the killings of bank robbery suspect Dion Damon and car thief Chan Lieth, both of whom were unarmed when they were shot dead in their vehicles.

However, the lack of charges against Northglenn police officer Tim Kuenning in the December 2015 shooting of Adrian Moya, 24, is unlikely to stir many protests.

Why not? The narrative from the decision letter issued by 17th Judicial District DA Dave Young — it's on view below in its entirety — offers evidence that Moya fired at Kuenning first, striking him twice.

Moreover, Moya had previously been busted for fleeing from police and prompting a high-profile chase.

That incident took place in January 2012, when the then nineteen-year-old Moya (who had already racked up busts for alcohol, drugs, theft and assault) reportedly led Aurora police on a pursuit that ended after he zoomed through a gate at Buckley Air Force Base, flipped his car and crashed into a fence — an episode that resulted in the following booking photo.

We're guessing this episode may have had something to do with his long gap between Facebook posts; he shared only one item between January 2012 and March 2014.

Moya came to law enforcement attention again on the morning of December 19, 2015.

That's when Northglenn officer Anthony Magness conducted the traffic stop of a Volkswagen sedan. Magness suspected that the driver, later ID'd as Moya, was under the influence.

The VW, which also contained a passenger, Anthony Muniz, pulled into a Diamond Shamrock station at the intersection of 112th and Huron Street in Northglenn. The area is captured in the following interactive graphic; if you have problems seeing the image, click "View on Google Maps."

Shortly thereafter, Officer Kuenning arrived on the scene to assist Magness.

After a brief conversation with Magness, Moya asked if he could go inside the convenience store attached to the Diamond Shamrock so that he could pay for gas. Magness said okay while motioning Kuenning to "keep an eye" on Moya, the decision letter maintains.

Meanwhile, Magness checked the driver's name with dispatch, and a moment later, he learned Moya had an active warrant in his name.

Magness told Kuenning to stop Moya as he was opening the door to enter the store, the letter continues, and when Kuenning called out, Moya "immediately dropped his backpack and started to run away."

Kuenning gave chase, and while trying to catch up, he says he saw Moya reach for something in the area of his waist.

It turned out to be a gun, which Moya allegedly pointed at Kuenning and fired four times, striking the officer twice — once in the abdomen, once in the chest.

Despite taking two bullets, Kuenning, clad in a bulletproof vest, was able to return fire, striking Moya several times.

In the end, both Kuenning and Moya survived, with the latter subsequently charged with attempted first-degree murder, assault and possession of a weapon by a felon.

Passenger Muniz was also arrested in the incident; he allegedly had 1.29 grams of methamphetamine on him at the time of the shooting.

DA Young's decision letter offers a straightforward rationale for the decision to clear Kuenning in the shooting. The conclusion reads in part:
The amount of force was reasonable. Mr. Moya was armed with a handgun and fired upon Officer Kuenning. Officer Kuenning stated that he fired his weapon because the suspect was shooting at him. He further stated that he stopped shooting because the suspect stopped shooting. As such, there is no basis for which to conclude a lesser degree of force was necessary. Mr. Moya's actions and behavior dictated Officer Kuenning's response of firing his weapon.
As such, Young wrote, "The evidence does not support the filing of any criminal charges against Officer Kuenning."

Look below to see Moya's most recent booking photo, followed by the decision letter and the Lakewood Police Department press release about last night's officer-involved shooting.

Adrian Moya Shooting Decision Letter

Lakewood Police Department release:

Officer Involved Shooting Leaves Man Dead

April 27, 2016

At about 9:20 pm last night, Lakewood Police Agents located a stolen vehicle in the parking lot of a motel at 480 Wadsworth Blvd. Initially there was no driver in the vehicle.

As the agents watched the vehicle, a man eventually approached it. When agents attempted to contact the man he ran, resulting in a short foot pursuit. While pursuing the man he fired shots at the agents. Agents returned fire, striking and hitting the man, who was later pronounced dead on scene.

An unidentified female who was a passenger in the vehicle was also taken into custody for questioning.

The Jefferson County Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) continues to investigate the shooting, which is standard practice in all police involved shootings. The CIRT team, commonly referred to as the “Shoot Team” is made up of investigators from many law enforcement agencies in the First Judicial District. The CIRT team will submit their final report to the Jefferson County District Attorney upon completion for final review.

There were no injuries to any of the agents or citizens who were on scene.

The identity of the suspect has not been confirmed and will be released after the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office has positively identified him and made notifications to his relatives.

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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