Former SWAT Sergeant says tactics in Park County shootout were 'a mistake'

Posted at 9:26 PM, Aug 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-25 01:33:42-04

PARK COUNTY, Colo. -- A former Jefferson County SWAT leader said the tactics used in the Park County shootout that killed Deputy Nate Carrigan were "a mistake."

Grant Whitus has more than 26 years of law enforcement experience and was the SWAT team leader during the Platte County High School shooting in Park County back in 2007.  

Denver7 showed him the CBI report, as well as photos, videos and audio recordings that detailed what happened the day of the shooting.

"If you laid it all out on a one to ten scale, how scary or how dangerous is this going to be... it's up there in the ten rage," said Whitus.

Deputies were serving a high risk eviction warrant on Martin Wirth, a man with a violent past who had threatened to kill police.

The CBI report shows that after Carrigan first made contact with the suspect -- he ran back inside, which is when the decision was made to kick the door in and go inside.

"In my opinion it was a mistake," said Whitus.

He believes deputies never should have gone inside.

"There's no reason to go back in after him because it's so dangerous, you know what he's going back in there for," further explained Whitus.

When looking at video from the crime scene Whitus also pointed out that the location where deputies chose to enter gave the suspect all the advantage.

"Probably the worst entrance point ever, because of how narrow it is," he said. "In this circumstance they didn't really have a lot of room to move laterally once you get in there, so they're kind of stuck in that fatal funnel. It means that multiple people would be hit coming through the door."

According to accounts provided by deputies who were there, Carrigan never made it out of the doorway before he was shot.

Photos of the scene also show several bullet holes in the wall by the door.

"It certainly forced their hand," said Whitus. "It should have been a SWAT call from the very beginning."

"There had been talks about making it a SWAT call, but you know, they didn't really feel that it warranted a SWAT call," said Captain Mark Hancock during his recorded interview with CBI.

Whitus also said he believes the deputies should have called in SWAT after the suspect went back inside since there were no hostages or a reason to go inside immediately since they were serving an eviction.

"Do you think these deputies, and the sheriff should be fired for these actions," asked Denver7 reporter Jennifer Kovaleski.

"I do not -- no, every time you go through something even as tragic as this it's all a learning experience," said Whitus. 


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