COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- 13 Investigates is learning more details about a man suspected of shooting off fifty rounds from an assault rifle at a Colorado Springs apartment complex Friday evening. Our team uncovered that his criminal past includes attempts to take away the exact object he used to strike fear in residents at the Alpine Vista Apartments: a gun.
Joey Romero, 31, is now facing 10 felony charges including attempted assault, felony menacing, and possession of a weapon by a previous offender. Colorado Springs police responded to the Alpine Vista Apartments Friday evening and located Romero with a gun in hand, shooting at buildings with people inside.
After a three-hour stand-off, CSPD says they took him into custody without incident; however, Romero was treated for a gunshot wound to the knee that appears to be self-inflicted. Romero is no stranger to being placed in handcuffs by CSPD officers. In fact, he was convicted of two separate crimes involving guns just four months ago.
He was arrested exactly one year ago today, on September 18, 2022, on felony drug charges as well as possessing a large-capacity gun magazine in violation of state law. He later was offered a plea deal by the 4th Judicial District Attorney's office, led by elected DA Michael Allen, that dropped the felony drug charges and magazine charges. Romero agreed to plead guilty to possessing a gun while drunk, a misdemeanor.
While out on pre-trial bond release in that case, he was arrested again by Colorado Springs Police officers on felony menacing with a weapon and possessing a gun while drunk charges again. Romero would later plead guilty to both crimes and was sentenced by El Paso County Judge David Gilbert on both cases on May 12, 2023.
Judge Gilbert sentenced Romero to a deferred sentence of two years on probation. Romero was only four months into that probation sentence when he allegedly struck fear into residents at the Alpine Vista Apartments.
13 Investigates asked three different agencies: Colorado Springs Police, the 4th Judicial District Attorney's office, and the El Paso County Probation Department the same question, how did Romero get his hands on another rifle and large capacity magazine after these prior convictions?
Colorado Springs Police said determining how he obtained the weapons used in Friday's active shooter incident remains under investigation.
El Paso County Chief Probation Officer Ryan Mills tells 13 Investigates Romero agreed to forfeit the guns used in his previous offenses as a part of the plea agreement with the DA's office. Mills says CSPD took the weapons used in those crimes and typically keeps them until someone is off of probation.
During Romero's four months on probation, Mills says they had no concerns regarding his mental state, nor did they have any evidence that he possessed any additional guns.
Kate Singh, Director of Communications for the 4th Judicial District Attorney's office, issued this statement to 13 Investigates regarding their prosecutions of Romero:
"In those cases, Romero was convicted of menacing, a class 5 felony, and two counts of prohibited use of a weapon, a class 1 misdemeanor. According to his sentence, the defendant was required to forfeit weapons and was prohibited from possessing firearms. The defendant has been arrested by CSPD and the case is being reviewed for formal filing of charges. The defendant will next appear in court on Sept. 26, 2023. This defendant, like any defendant charged with a crime, is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Lastly, because new allegations are pending, there will be no further comment until and unless a final disposition is reached."
"If you're on a deferred sentence and you successfully complete your deferred sentence, your firearm rights are restored," Colorado Springs defense attorney Jeremy Loew said. "So this individual who is accused of firing off these shots, he was prohibited from having firearms in the first place."
However, as Loew explains, there is no mechanism in place to ensure someone is not lying on plea agreement paperwork and claims they don't possess guns, when they actually do.
"People are placed on probation and it's essentially their word that they no longer have firearms," Loew said. "They can't necessarily go to a gun store and buy a new gun because they'll be flagged. But if their buddy gives them a gun or they buy a gun on the street, there's again, no mechanism to enforce whether or not they have a firearm in their possession."
Loew also says a major issue impacting probation departments across Colorado is a lack of funding and resources to manage an increasing amount of people placed under their supervision, and not in jails or prisons.
"We're going to place more people on probation. That doesn't necessarily mean that probation is getting a ton more resources to monitor all of these probationers. The money is not being diverted from prisons to probation," Loew explained. "Then we have individuals like this guy who is shooting off these rounds and menacing people that probation should have double checked on, and they just don't have the resources to do it."
Romero will be back in court for a first appearance hearing on these new charges on September 26. He's in the El Paso County Jail on a $100,000 cash, surety, or property bond.