Family disputes, domestic violence some of the most dangerous calls for police

LAKEWOOD, Colo. - A shooting in Lakewood Saturday that injured two police officers highlights the dangers police can encounter when responding to family disputes.

"Domestic violence calls and traffic stops are probably some of the most dangerous things officers are involved in," said Lakewood Police spokesman Steve Davis.

Family members say the suspect in Saturday's shootings, Gordon Lee Moench Jr., was depressed because of marital problems and had been arguing when his wife and stepson before his wife called police.

Police said when a male officer arrived, the suspect shot him before he could get out of the car, then went on to shoot a female officer, also on sight. A third officer shot Moench, leaving him with non-life-threatening injuries.

According to FBI data, about 30 percent of officer assaults occur during disturbance situations, like domestic violence and fights.

"(People) are so agitated usually and emotions are running so high," said Davis. "Because we're there, we become the target of both of them sometimes. They direct their anger away from each other and to us."

He said one way officers prepare for these volatile, unpredictable situations is with virtual training where real life scenarios are displayed on a screen and officers have to decide whether or not to fire a weapon.

7NEWS visited Centennial Gun Club to try out one of the training programs.

"You don't know if that's a bad guy or potential good guy," said firearms instructor Steven Brownell as armed people showed up on screen, some shooting in a moment's notice.

In addition to being ready to make split-second decisions, police say bulletproof vests have become necessities for officers. Davis said officers aren't required to wear one, but most on his force always do.

The first officer shot Saturday was hit in his vest.

"It no doubt saved him from severe injury if not death," Davis said.

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