Adams County Sheriff and Coroner refuse to identify suspect shot, killed by deputy

Suspect's family cited in refusal

ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. - Adams County agencies have refused to identify a suspect shot and killed by a deputy on Jan. 14. In their refusals, they cite concerns from the family of the suspect, despite the fact that the exception is not recognized by state law.

The shooting happened around 6 p.m. on Jan. 14 in a rural area near 142nd Avenue and Quebec Street, according to County sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Terrance O'Neill.

O'Neill said a motorist had called 911 to report a suspected drunken driver in the area. As a deputy responded to the area, the reporting motorist told 911 the suspected drunken driver had rolled the vehicle.

The deputy approached the crash and spotted the suspected male drunken driver, crouching behind a Volkswagen Beetle driven by the woman who had called 911.

The deputy gave verbal commands to the man and then saw the man point a gun at him, O'Neill said.

The deputy fired twice, hitting and killing the man, O'Neill said.

7NEWS learned the BMW involved was registered to Robert Penning. CALL7 Investigator Tak Lancrock also confirmed that someone with the same name was being autopsied by the coroner's office on Thursday.

On Friday, however, the Office of the Coroner sent 7NEWS this comment:

"The deceased individual involved in a police incident, on January 14, 2013, with the Adams County Sheriff's Department, at 142nd and Quebec, died as a result of a gunshot wound to the chest. At the request of the family of the deceased, we are not releasing the name of the individual at this time. Please contact the Adams County Sheriff's Department for additional information."

That message echoes one emailed to 7NEWS by the Sheriff's Department Wednesday evening.

"Due to the request of the family of the deceased male resulting from the officer involved shooting occurring on January 14, 2013,  the Adams County Sheriff’s Office is unwilling to release the name/identification of the decedent.  The family has expressed great concern to the Adams County Sheriff’s Office that their loved one’s name and/or photograph sent out via media would only further and prolong their suffering over the incident.  If you have any questions regarding this communication, please feel free to contact me directly."

Adams County Sheriff Doug Darr said the family sent his office a letter saying how difficult the incident has been for them.

"They asked we withhold the identity of this man for a while; to give them a chance to get them on their feet and to recover and work through it," Darr said. "I looked at that and thought it was a reasonable request and I still do."

The decision by the Adams County Sheriff's Office and County Coroner is in stark contrast to precedent set by other law enforcement agencies and coroners in Colorado.

For example, the Arapahoe County coroner identified a 55-year-old man who was shot and killed by an Aurora police officer after police said the naked man attacked two other officers with a machete and a knife. Cecil Cochran died in November from severe internal injuries caused by a gunshot to the chest, Arapahoe County Coroner Michael Dobersen said.

Cochran was identified four days after he was shot.

In September, Lakewood police identified a woman shot and killed after trying to drive away from a traffic stop with an officer's arm pinned inside a car window. Donna Lynn Martinez, 39, was originally stopped for investigation of driving a stolen vehicle. She died after being hit by the bullet fired by the officer who was stuck.

Martinez was identified one day after she was shot.

Denver Police identified a suspect who survived being shot by an officer in October. Dwight Collins was shot by an officer after being seen pointing a handgun toward pedestrian and another police car.

Collins was identified no more than 10 days after he was shot.

Coroner's autopsy reports are supposed to be excluded from the general medical records exemption under Colorado law.

Section 204 (3)(a)(I) reads:

(3) (a) The custodian shall deny the right of inspection of the following records, unless otherwise provided by law; except that any of the following records, other than letters of reference concerning employment, licensing, or issuance of permits, shall be available to the person in interest under this subsection (3):

(I) Medical, mental health, sociological, and scholastic achievement data on individual persons, other than scholastic achievement data submitted as part of finalists' records as set forth in subparagraph (XI) of this paragraph (a) and exclusive of coroners' autopsy reports and group scholastic achievement data from which individuals cannot be identified; but either the custodian or the person in interest may request a professionally qualified person, who shall be furnished by the said custodian, to be present to interpret the records;

7NEWS sent a written request for the information on Wednesday evening, after receiving the email from the sheriff's department. Since then, we've also asked for comment. So far, the sheriff has declined an interview.