COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Many smartphone users may be asking about the statewide Blue Alert they received Thursday as authorities sought Justin Kula, the suspect in the hit-and-run death of a Community Parole Officer near the intersection of Bijou and Spruce streets.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) issued the alert at 6:17 p.m. and deactivated it at 7:32 p.m., when the agency determined that Medina was in custody and his vehicle had been recovered.
The issuance of a Blue Alert is extremely rare; according to the CBI, Thursday was only the fourth time time a Blue Alert has been issued in Colorado since state lawmakers and then-Gov. John Hickenlooper created a law designating it in 2011.
"The first two alerts in 2014 and 2015 really used our standard protocol when it comes to the issuance of alerts," said Audrey Simkins, a CBI investigative analyst. "We would share information with our media partners statewide, utilize our social media platform and also our CDOT signs. When the national law was changed in 2015, that gave us a little more authority to utilize the Emergency Alerting System and the Wireless Emergency Alerting System -- which would actually take place on your cellphone."
Sinkins said that Loveland (2014) and Commerce City (2015) issued Blue Alerts under the early system.
In Loveland, Cody Powell received a 40-year prison sentence for shooting a police officer during a traffic stop; Powell eventually surrendered and the officer recovered from his injuries.
In Commerce City, a police officer who claimed he was shot during a traffic stop, later recanted the story and admitted he had shot himself because he was mentally troubled; as part of a plea deal, he received no jail time but served probation and can no longer work in law enforcement.
In the Arvada case, an off-duty police detective was shot while confronting an armed robbery suspect at a convenience store; the shooter, Samuel McConnell, also had his two-year-old daughter in his car at the time; eventually, a jury convicted him and sentenced him to 32 years in prison.
The CBI uses specific criteria in issuing a Blue Alert: After being notified by and confirming information from local law-enforcement agencies that a peace officer is missing, or has been killed or critically injured by a suspect who fled from the crime scene, and the situation creates an imminent public threat.
Once that confirmation is made, the CBI forwards the information to media outlets across the state, then issues a Blue Alert to the public -- the agency recommends that the alert be re-broadcast every 15 minutes the first two hours, then every 30 minutes afterward.
However, the CBI issued only two alerts -- one at the beginning and one to deactivate it an hour and fifteen minutes later.
Previously, the CBI has explained that it wants to issue a Blue Alert infrequently enough that the public will pay more attention to it, but not so frequently that the public will pay less attention.
A common question about Blue Alerts is why they tent to be issued several hours after the crime; in Thursday's incident, the release was issued more than two hours after incident is believed to have happened.
The CBI has said that it takes time to gather and confirm as much information as possible before issuing an alert; furthermore, the duration of Thursday's alert was relatively short.
Authorities said that Thursday's Blue Alert as a major factor in Kula's capture.
"I want to thank our community members who responded so quickly to our statewide Blue Alert regarding the suspect," said Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez. "Please know that your calls truly did make a difference, and your support continues to matter to our officers."
Colorado became the 13 state in the U.S. to authorize a Blue Alert; Florida was the first in 2008; it's believed that 37 states now have laws for those alerts.
A Blue Alert is one of six statewide alerts that the CBI can issue in Colorado; the others are the Amber Alert (for child abductions); the Missing Senior Citizen Alert; the Missing Persons with Developmental Disabilities Alert; the Medina Alert (for hit-and-run suspects); the Endangered Missing/Media Alert and the Missing Indigenous Persons Alert (for Native Americans).