Dion Wright, 25, was shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy after authorities said he pointed a .380-caliber pistol at the officer. The man refused commands to drop the weapon and the deputy fired his gun three times, accidentally striking Wright in the back, The Denver Post reported.
The deputy was one of several who responded to a domestic disturbance in Estes Park, a mountain resort town 30 miles north of Denver, on Thursday. Upon arriving at the scene, Wright’s roommate, Michael Nelson, told the sheriff’s office he’d been arguing with Wright about their relationship and that Wright had picked up a knife and told him to leave. Nelson told deputies he went outside to calm Wright down, and when he went back in, Wright was holding the knife.
Nelson said he spotted a bright flash, and when he got up to see what was going on, the sheriff’s deputy was already near the apartment. He said he could see Wright pointing a gun toward the officer, who also was standing nearby, and yelled out to Wright, telling him to drop the weapon.
“I tried to ask the deputy what he had seen,” Nelson said. “He got mad and grabbed his gun and didn’t say anything.”
Nelson said the deputy’s gun “fired and the bullet went right into my back.”
The sheriff’s office wouldn’t comment on the matter, citing an ongoing investigation. But the officer shot Wright three times in the back, and the weapon was recovered from the scene.
Authorities said the state Bureau of Investigation was examining the officer’s firing.
The shooting death has highlighted difficulties that police face in regulating concealed weapons, experts told The Post.
“It’s just something we haven’t dealt with in Colorado very much,” Jennifer McCarron, executive director of the nonprofit Colorado Ceasefire, said in an interview. “If you have a question about how a concealed-carry permit works, you need to read this.”
The discussion of the officer’s use of force in the Estes Park shooting came as some police agencies around the country grappled with questions about when it’s appropriate to fire on a suspect with a firearm. In California, a San Francisco Police Department officer fatally shot Luis Gongora at the height of a protest against police brutality following a white officer’s killing of a black man. Gongora was armed with a knife, the officer told authorities.
Since the shooting, community members have said they don’t believe the officer acted appropriately. A group of concerned family members and neighbors held a protest outside the police department on Saturday.
Though state law defines a concealed-carry permit as a license “to carry concealed weapons,” and not necessarily permission to openly carry concealed weapons, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation restricts how long the permit is valid, and who can apply for it. The bureau’s criteria for a gun permit include such basics as age, residency and permanent residence. It also goes on to explain that there are “an unlimited number of reasons” why someone may not meet the requirements.
Three Colorado counties and two counties in Wyoming had no active concealed-carry permits in 2016, according to a tally by Denver7.
The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office told The Post on Sunday that it has been regularly exchanging background information and verifying that applicants are allowed to carry guns under state law.
There is no Colorado law requiring a full background check on all applications, as there is in other states, said Alana Kofman, a CBI spokeswoman.
“The name and Social Security number must be verified through a motor vehicle agency,” she said.
A person who is denied a concealed-carry permit in Colorado can get it within a year.
“We thoroughly review each application to make sure all requirements and guidelines have been met,” Kofman said.
The Estes Park shooting also came the same week that the Colorado Supreme Court granted a permit to Nathan Phillips, who, according to federal court documents, was harassing Native Americans at a 2016 protest over the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.