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Colorado Springs man shot, paralyzed during police shootout asks for financial help

thomas villanueva shooting scene

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- February 5, 2018, might have been two and a half years ago, but for Thomas Villanueva, that day is every bit as poignant today.

It's the last day Villanueva walked on his own.

The Colorado Springs man had walked across the street from his Murray Hill apartment for a snack, and, on his way back home, was shot in the back during an undercover sting operation.

Members of the Beat Auto Theft Through Law Enforcement (BATTLE) team were tailing car theft suspect Manuel Zetina all day. By mid-afternoon, after seeing him at various locations in Colorado Springs, it was time to corner Zetina. The 19-year-old did not surrender peacefully: an intense gun battle followed, leaving El Paso County Sheriff's Deputy Micah Flick and Zetina dead, Deputy Scott Stone severely injured, and Villanueva paralyzed.

An investigation by District Attorney Dan May's office ruled that Zetina's bullet pierced Villanueva's spine, fracturing it.

The state of Colorado paid Villanueva $30,000 through its victim compensation fund, which was the highest amount allotted by statute. It was barely enough to pay for his new handicap-accessible van and motorized wheelchair.

Villanueva filed a federal civil suit (PDF) against El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder, then Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey, and multiple officers involved in the sting, including the estate of deceased Deputy Micah Flick. The complaint alleged that Villanueva was not warned to avoid the area, and that BATTLE team members did not identify themselves as detectives.

"I wasn't in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was in my place. You allowed me to walk in that perimeter, that's it," said Villanueva, tearfully. "I'm going through hell and back right now."

May 29th, 2020, Chief United States District Judge Philip A. Brimmer ruled in favor of the defendants (PDF) on all claims, ordering the case closed.

It served as another reminder of the gravity of Villanueva's condition.

"It's a weight. I don't -- I don't have anything to push that weight up. And, I'm drowning right now, I'm drowning."

Today, he is asking for GoFundMe donations to build a physical therapy gym in his father's garage, given that injuries to his diaphragm put him at a heightened risk, should he contract coronavirus while receiving therapy in a public establishment.

If anything, Villanueva dreams his therapy could eventually help him feel not just pain.

"When you take a shower today, or any day, just remember that you can feel the water in between your toes. That's my dream -- to feel the water between my toes."

Colorado Springs / Crime / Local News / News / Special Reports / Talkers

Heather Skold

Heather is the evening anchor for KRDO. Learn more about Heather here.



    1. as well as offing one of their own. The coroner’s report was not released because it would show the bullets in Flick’s corpse were other offer’s bullets.

      1. You’re an idiot. What an ASSumption to make. Two whiny losers talking smack to support their agenda. Pathetic

  1. This all started when the detectives involved decided to “bear hug” a known armed felon. No police academy anywhere, ever, has taught that this was a good tactic. But, this is what you get when you have a corrupt Sheriff who puts people in supervisory positions based on favoritism and political gain. This was a disaster is mismanagement from the get go.

    I’m sorry for Mr. Villanueva that our horribly led Sheriff’s Office caused this mess.

    1. If someone was raising a gun at you and that is all you could do…… Nothing ever goes by the book when you are dealing with drugged out criminals. If he had’nt then he would of been shot and other more seriously wounded, then he could of even shot more bystanders.
      Plus….. Colorado State Patrol was lead on the sting operations. Not ole Bill.

      1. You are wrong in many ways. They didn’t bear hug him because he raised his gun. Their plan was to walk by him without him knowing they were cops then suddenly bear hug him in surprise. That obviously didn’t work out well because, well, it’s a stupid tactic.

        CSP has members on this operation, but they were not in charge. A CSPD Sergeant was in charge. It was Elder’s detectives who came up with this terrible idea though.

  2. It was a very unfortunate event. But the truth and what was in the suit is..
    “A stray bullet fired by the suspect struck plaintiff, an innocent
    pedestrian, paralyzing him from the chest down”

    It sucks but it is what it is. I bet he would garner more support if he wasn’t sitting around smoking weed all day every day. Dreadlocks with blue and green hair…….classy. I am always willing to help someone as long as they are trying to help themselves at the same time.

    1. I bet you can always find a reason why someone doesn’t deserve help. Did you watch the video? When he was laying paralyzed in the street, he didn’t have blue hair or dreadlocks. If you’re going to ask people to put themselves in the place of officers and understand what they’re going through, then certainly you can try to put yourself in the place of this man. He lost the use of the lower half of his body because police didn’t clear the area of civilians. It doesn’t matter whose round struck this man’s spine, he was paralyzed because police were complacent. How would you react if you weren’t able to move your legs ever again? What if you weren’t able to feel when you’ve shit yourself? Don’t judge the man based on his hair color and your assumption that he smokes weed. You can’t possibly know what he’s been through if you get up on your high horse with both working legs.

  3. This is what needs to change POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY!!!! they ruined this guys life and got nothing for doing so the cops that shot him are STILL ON THE FORCE…only when your a cop can you get someone hurt or killed and have no responsibility for your actions….anywhere else and that person would go to jail for any number of charges. C.S.P.D. needs a huge enima!!!!!!!

    1. The victim was shot by the criminal Not the police. So I don’t get your rant……
      You make it seem like this whole things was orchestrated to hurt people.

      I hope you remember an officer lost his life trying to take a criminal off the street who had the high potential to hurt or kill people in the community. That officer (and his family) paid the ultimate price. He did it because he Wanted to make a difference and keep the Community safe.

      How about you go and try to be a peace officer. I bet you don’t even have the guts to try.

    2. @Torigan:
      I was just thinking of you today! Even was reading some of your old krud-oh Disqus posts. I miss that chat format so much. I guess krud-O is either too cheap or too lazy to have it. at least here its easier to state your mind. dammit.

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