Deputy justified in shooting Ronette Morales, who opened fire with children by her side, says DA

DENVER - The Denver District Attorney says a deputy sheriff was justified in shooting and killing a woman who opened fire with her children by her side.

Sheriff’s Deputy Eric Givens shot and killed Ronette Morales, 30, when she opened fire on Givens’ partner, according to a decision letter from Denver District Attorney Mitchell R. Morrissey.

In the report, Morrissey said that “no criminal charges are fileable [sic] against Deputy Givens.”

Morrissey wrote that Givens “acted quickly” and shot Morales after the woman fired a shot that “narrowly missed his partner’s head.”

“Deputy Givens’s judgment that it was necessary to fire his pistol to save the life of his partner and his own cannot be questioned,” the letter says. “This was an encounter where, had he not taken the action he did, his partner would likely have been shot by Morales at close range.”

The deputies came to Morales’ home at 305 Park Avenue West on the morning of Jan. 30 in an attempt to serve a felony arrest warrant for burglary, assault and harassment on Morales.

Givens said a member of the maintenance staff told the deputies that Morales did not often use her front door, but instead climbed over the wall to her patio in the back of the apartment, lifting the children over the wall, according to the letter.

Givens waited at the back of the apartment while his partner, Deputy Sheriff Donald Travis went to the front door with the maintenance person, who knocked and asked Morales to open the door, the letter says.

After Morales told them to “go away,” and refused to open the door, Travis called her on the phone. She refused to open the door again, so Travis returned to the back of the house and watched the patio, according to the letter.

Morales stepped out onto the patio, and Travis approached the patio to climb over the wall. As he did so, he saw Morales’ children on the patio. Morales was facing away from Travis, so he put his hand on her shoulder, the letter says.

When she turned around, Travis saw a gun in her hand, according to the letter. She fired the weapon.

“The bullet, I remember moving my head just a little bit and I could feel, like, the concussion and powder from the gun as it went off,” Travis said, according to the letter.

Travis fell backward onto the patio, where he was unable to shoot back at Morales because the children were in his line of fire, the letter says. Givens, who heard the gunshot and saw Travis fall down, returned fire.

Givens later told investigators that he was “fearing for (his) partner’s life” and thought Morales might have killed Travis.

Morales went back inside, and Givens approached the patio to help Travis, according to the letter. When he did so, Morales reappeared, and Givens told investigators that he saw that Morales was armed with a handgun. He fired again and struck Morales, who fell to the ground.

The children were still on the patio when Givens was firing, but he told investigators he was “shooting high” to avoid harming them, according to the letter.

One of Givens’ bullets also struck Travis in the hand, the letter says.

Morales was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner.

A family member told 7NEWS that Morales suffered from mental illness.

“She was paranoid,” the family member said. “But she was also a good mom.”

7NEWS learned that Morales owned a .40 caliber handgun, which she had allegedly used previously to threaten a former boyfriend.

Court documents obtained by 7NEWS indicate that Morales was arrested in February 2011 for assault/menacing with a deadly weapon and for cruelty toward a child.

That case was dismissed because a key witness opted not to go forward.

In April 2012, Morales filed court petitions against two men seeking an "allocation of parental responsibilities."

Such petitions are used by unmarried people to determine each parent's share of child support, parenting time and other parental responsibilities.

“I’m very concerned about the impact (of the shooting) on those kids,” the family member told 7NEWS.

Both children have been placed with a relative.

The Morales family released a statement in February that read:

"We are relieved that the officer that was wounded is in recovery. We hope it is a full recovery. We are also deeply concerned about the officer that was forced to end Ronette's life. We are hopeful that his sense of duty, professional resources and most of all his loving family and friends will expedite his peace of mind. Nonetheless from time to time he will revisit this tragic event many times for the rest of his life. We are inclined to assist in any way, be it now or twenty years down the line.

Death is painful for only one group of people. The living. Ronette is at peace, as are all those who have ever died. We were able to cherish life with her and we will always cherish her memory in our lives. Ronette was a beautiful woman, compassionate mother, the most caring of sisters and dearest of daughters. She will be deeply missed. Ronette expressed a deep faith in God. However, she was not a member of any religious organization. She was aware of one fact; true peace can only come from one source. We encourage everyone to find that source."


Read the full letter from the District Attorney here:

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