Denver police commander takes responsibility for authorizing deadly chase Wednesday

Cmdr. Pazen says it was 'the right decision'

DENVER - A Denver Police Department commander stood by his decision to authorize a chase Wednesday that resulted in an officer being wounded, a suspect being killed and four arrests.

"The buck stops for this entire event right here," said Denver Police Cmdr. Paul Pazen.

Pazen spoke about the chase and his decisions at a public meeting Thursday night. The public was allowed to ask questions, and in answering them Pazen revealed some new information about the events.

Denver Police began chasing a red pickup truck full of suspects because they'd been notified they were wanted in connection with a series of shooting incidents and a menacing incident in Thornton.

"That decision to purse, based on this case -- not on every case -- but based on this case, was absolutely the right decision. They had fired upon children in Aurora," Pazen said.

During the chase, at least one of the suspects opened fire on pursuing officers. Witnesses also told 7NEWS about seeing someone throwing things at the police cars from the back of the pickup after they had apparently run out of ammunition.

One officer, identified by sources as Robert Motyka, was shot in the shoulder while chasing the pickup.

"He is doing really good. (I) talked to him multiple times today. I actually saw him today, he looks fantastic," Pazen said.

"Anytime bullets fly, it's a concern, no matter what; standing, driving, it's a concern," said Rebecca Hunt, president of the Highland United Neighborhoods, Inc., or HUNI.

HUNI is bordered by Interstate 25, Speer Boulevard, Federal Boulevard and 38th Avenue, areas where the chase impacted on Wednesday.

"There's a lot of times I don't think it's justified, I believe this time it was," said Hunt.

"We definitely had that extreme risk, that indifference to human life. They were definitely out there to try to hurt folks and they absolutely needed to be stopped," Pazen said about the suspects' behavior.

The chase ended with the pickup crashing into a tree at 39th Avenue and Osage Street at about 3:30 p.m. In the moments after the crash, officers shot two of the suspects. One of them died and the other was hospitalized.

Another male was caught after being bitten by a police dog. A female, who was injured in the crash, was also arrested.

Jude Montoya, 21, and Alyssa Moralez, 21, both wore red jumpsuits and shackles in court Thursday. Morales also wore a neck brace.

The other two surviving suspects were identified by Denver Police as Michael Valdez, 38, and Chuck Montoya, 34. The suspect who was shot and killed was not named.

7NEWS asked Pazen what an officer must determine before they're allowed to fire their weapon during a police chase.

"The imminent threat to an officer or to a third party, and that officer has to be able to articulate that threat," said Pazen. "The preliminary view definitely looks like the officers acted well within policy and procedure, but that's something that we'll have lots and lots of review."

Several schools were locked down and nearby residents were instructed to stay indoors.

After the crash, 7NEWS learned that police made three reverse notification calls telling residents to stay inside. The borders of those notification calls were from 39th Avenue to 43rd Avenue and from Mariposa Street to Quivas Street.

An attendee at Thursday's meeting asked Pazen how far that fifth suspect got. The answer, he replied, was about one block.

Pazen revealed that officers had the suspect in custody quickly, but continued to keep neighborhoods and schools locked down because the suspect had changed his appearance. Police wanted to do a grid search to be certain they had the right person before reopening the area, he said.

Late Thursday night, family and friends of the suspect killed started a memorial at the tree where the truck crashed.

"On the side over here where the truck was, they were still shooting, I could still hear the gunfire," said Steven Perez.

Perez told 7NEWS that he is a cousin of the suspect who was killed. He said he saw police officers still shooting after the truck crashed. Perez said the killed suspect had been at his home near where the chase ended shortly before the chase happened.

"He was crying. I couldn't understand what he was saying. He was crying. He was really upset," said Perez.

He said the man ended up leaving the home and taking off with others in the pickup truck.

He asked the 7NEWS crew to respect the privacy of the suspect's family and keep a distance from the memorial.

Denver Police were able to get the community meeting put together barely 24 hours after the chase itself. The department sent out an alert to its email list and also posted the meeting on its Facebook page. According to Pazen, the page gets 15,000 visits a month.