Chief: Officers shot, killed auto theft suspect outside funeral home after he drove into officer

Some witnesses say police endangered public

DENVER - Denver Police Chief Robert White says a fugitive task force had been following a 20-year-old auto theft suspect all day on Wednesday before police cars blocked him in his car outside the Romero Family Funeral Home that evening.

"The officers had been following this individual most of the day, they just thought that was the best opportunity to apprehend him," Denver Police Chief Robert White said during a Thursday news conference.

According to police, Ryan Ronquilla was wanted on two felony warrants for auto theft and was driving a stolen car. 

White said shortly after Ronquilla backed into a parking spot in the funeral lot, several police cars swarmed around his car. That's when police said he backed up into an officer and her patrol car.

"Several shots were fired at that time and then he attempted to come forward again, he actually did come forward again, currently placing other officers at harms way at which time an additional two officers fired," White said.

In total, White said police fired at least a dozen shots.

The female officer was treated for minor leg injuries, police said.

Police tweeted out a picture showing some minor damage to a squad car, one of five cars, including two unmarked cars, they said the suspect rammed during the confrontation.

Police said they did not know Ronquilla was attending a viewing for a deceased friend at the funeral home.

On Wednesday night, people attending the funeral viewing criticized police for using excessive force and for putting nearby children in harm's way.

"You cops came and killed him at a funeral while he was mourning his best friend’s loss…you guys pulled up and shot him in the parking lot…and our kids were out there too!  Almost ran over a little girl!  Is that how you guys do it now?!" one person yelled at police.

Metro State University Criminal Justice expert, Joe Sandoval, said there are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the shooting and until details of the investigation come out, it's just too soon to know whether police made the right call.

"How many people were actually physically near the incident? The person’s in the vehicle. Was the person driving? ...Was he really trying to escape?" Sandoval asked.

The four officers who fired their weapons are on administrative leave which is standard procedure, pending the outcome of the Denver District Attorney's Office investigation of the shooting.

On Thursday afternoon, Denver Police tweeted out a letter to the community from the police chief about the incident. It said the chief will hold a public forum for the community to express their concerns about the shooting.  The date for the meeting has not yet been determined.

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