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Officers cleared in Canon City shooting that left one dead, another injured

KRDO

CANON CITY, Colo. (KRDO) -- Five months after two men were shot by police in a Quality Inn parking lot in Canon City, District Attorney Linda Stanley announced that neither of the Canon City Police officers involved will face charges.

Dalton Buckholz, 28, died in the shooting. Kriton Phillips, 20, was shot in the stomach area, but he recovered.

District Attorney Linda Stanley released Friday that she did not find sufficient evidence of wrongdoing to charge either officer involved. Simultaneously, Canon City Police Chief John W. Schick released his department's account of what happened.

Buckholz died on May 1, 2021 when plain-clothes officers fired at him while he was in his car with his friend, Phillips. Officer Shelby Beck and Detective Chad Gary were in an unmarked police vehicle and had been following Buckholz along Highway 50 in Canon City.

According to Schick's statement, residents at the Maverick Trailer Park had complained about nearby drug deals, and police started surveilling the area. On May 1, Beck and Gary noticed a "suspicious vehicle," and followed it to a church parking lot where residents reported drug deals took place. The statement says Gary and Beck believed a drug deal took place based on the complaint and their observations, so they started to follow the vehicle.

Schick's statement says the two officers noticed "counter-surveillance tactics" from the vehicle, that led them to believe they had been identified as law enforcement, so they stopped their surveillance while awaiting information on the vehicle's registration.

Later on, the two officers spotted the vehicle again on Highway 50, and they followed it into the Quality Inn parking lot. The statement says Detective Gary told Officer Beck to continue following the suspect vehicle toward a dead-end in the parking lot. The vehicle got to the rear of the lot and made a U-turn before coming back toward the unmarked police vehicle, according to Schick's statement.

Schick says both officers got out of their unmarked police car with their guns drawn and announced, "Police-stop the vehicle." The statement says that the vehicle then "accelerated and turned toward the Detective, who was positioned near the driver-side rear of the unmarked police vehicle." That's when Detective Gary opened fire toward the driver-side windshield. Police say the car kept going toward Gary's position, but it struck a parked car that was behind the unmarked police car.

Schick's statement says Officer Beck didn't fire at first, but she thought Detective Gary had either been hit by the car or was about to be hit by the car, so she fired her gun "toward the rear of the car."

Police say the evidence shows that the vehicle would've passed by the unmarked car "by approximately sixteen inches" from the officer's position.

Buckholz's autopsy report revealed he was shot through the neck and the back, and the bullets also injured his hands. The report also revealed that Buckholz was under the influence of a handful of different drugs at the time of his death. Schick's statement says Buckholz was killed by one of Gary's bullets.

Officers Beck and Gary were placed on paid administrative leave following the incident, but returned to restricted duty in early August after the Colorado Bureau of Investigation completed their investigation and sent their findings to District Attorney Linda Stanley. Restricted duty means the two were carrying weapons and operating as members in law enforcement, but the Canon City Police Department listed their duty status as "essentially administrative in function," saying they do not "take law enforcement actions or directly interact with the public in the same."

Both officers will return to full duty following the District Attorney's findings.

KRDO spoke to Phillips back in July while he was incarcerated on unrelated charges. He told us that neither he nor Buckholz knew the people in the car behind them were police before the shooting started.

The report from CCPD says that Phillips' statements weren't consistent, saying that statements he told to emergency medical personnel at the scene "indicated he and Buckholz were aware that both the Detective and officer were police officers and that he and Buckholz had no intention of stopping the vehicle."

Both Detective Gary and Officer Beck were found in violation of three different CCPD policies: not wearing badges as required, wearing inappropriate civilian attire during the incident, and discussing the incident before making a formal statement. CCPD says they were reprimanded and received "educational-based training," but no other details were given about their repercussions.

In addition, the incident prompted modifications to several CCPD policies, including the following changes:

  • Unmarked vehicle stops: Officers in any vehicle without required emergency equipment, including, at a minimum, red and blue lights, shall not conduct or attempt to conduct a vehicle stop unless necessary to prevent serious bodily injury or death to any person.
  • Undercover operations: All officers conducting surveillance, undercover, or similar operations shall carry a radio, badge, firearm, and handcuffs at all times, unless previously authorized by the chief of police or their designee on operations where a radio, firearms, or handcuffs may compromise operational safety. When an operation requires an officer not carry a radio, the officer will carry a cellular phone, concealed microphone and transmitter, or another communications device.
  • Drug and Alcohol-free workspace: Members called in for an unscheduled shift to support an operation, staff shortage, or other emergency shall disclose any alcohol consumption to a supervisor within eight (8) hours of being called in for the unscheduled shift, even if no intoxication is suspected. Supervisors shall not call in, deploy, or otherwise assign members for duty who have consumed alcohol within the last eight (8) hours unless it can be shown the member is not intoxicated to the slightest degree and such assignment cannot be filled by any other personnel and the assignment is necessary for the preservation of life, property, or public order.
  • Insignia-patches, Civilian Attire: Non-uniformed officers shall have the ability to and shall prominently display their badge and where applicable other agency insignia, such as police or badge patches, before taking any law enforcement action that may require use of force, conducting traffic stops, or subject stops, unless necessary to prevent serious bodily injury or death or unless approved by the chief of police or their designee as needed for operational security.

The drug and alcohol-free workspace update is in response to Officer Beck admitting she had had a single alcoholic beverage several hours before being called into duty by Detective Gary.

KRDO also spoke to Dalton's family roughly a month before the DA made her announcement. Dalton's long-time partner, Miranda Hines, pushed for the DA to charge the officers involved, saying he didn't deserve to die that night.

"I hope that you look at this man past his tattoos and pass his toxicology report, because beyond that, he was a father and he was the love of my life, and he turned his whole life around," Hines said.

Watch a replay of Canon City's statement below:

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Sydnee Stelle

Sydnee is an MMJ for KRDO NewsChannel 13. You can learn more about her here.

Andrew McMillan

Andrew is the Digital Content Director for KRDO.com. Learn more about Andrew here.

Comments

1 Comment

  1. Now having all of the information released to the public, this can be closed. This has to be one of the most inclusive reports a law enforcement agency has released to date. It mentions the entire actions of the officers and the involved suspects. It is good to see an agency doing their best for their community. The public release speech from the Chief was possibly one of the best PIO reports that has been released in a long time. Hope the officers can recover from this incident.

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