The 10th Judicial Critical Incident Response Team is investigating after a man was shot and killed by Pueblo County sheriff's deputies in a standoff situation early Wednesday.
Deputies responded to North Mesa Elementary School in east Pueblo County at approximately 3:40 p.m. Tuesday on reports of shots fired from a location north of the school, Sheriff David Lucero said Wednesday afternoon during a press conference. Classes had already been dismissed for the day but there were still some students and staff at the school.
The school was placed on lockdown for approximately an hour as deputies investigated the shots fired call. All students and staff were safely escorted from the school by sheriff’s deputies.
While investigating the incident, deputies learned that the shots were reportedly fired in the vicinity of the school bya man at a residence in the 900 block of 29th Lane, according to the release. The home is adjacent to the school playground and some students were on the playground at the time the shots were fired.
"Some of the background information is that (the suspect) is known to just go out and shoot rounds," Lucero said. "But these were actually leveled in the direction of the school."
Deputies attempted to contact the suspect at the home, but the man refused to speak to them. PCSO alleges the man, who they have not identified to the public, threatened deputies with a gun.
Deputies then left the home, according to a PCSO news release, and search warrants were obtained for the home due to the public safety risk for nearby residents and the school. The SWAT Team was deployed to execute those warrants around 8 p.m. Tuesday night, Lucero.
PCSO said a SWAT team and negotiators attempted for several hours to communicate with the suspect to get him to surrender peacefully, but he refused "repeated verbal commands," according to the release. The SWAT team deployed gas into the home around 1 a.m. Wednesday, according to Lucero, but the suspect still refused to comply.
When the SWAT team finally entered the residence at around 3 a.m., the suspect allegedly fired on deputies with a handgun, and deputies returned fire, killing the suspect, Lucero said.
"We made entry, executed a methodical search, cleared most of the rooms, and narrowed down to one location where he possibly was," Lucero said at the presser. "Deputies tried to negotiate, letting him know we're the sheriff's office, we have a lawful warrant for your arrest, and a lawful warrant for search. But at one point he decided to open the door and fire multiple shots, engaging our deputies who returned fire."
Lucero said deputies attempted to use as little force as possible, but were unable to gain compliance before being forced to enter the residence.
"Under our rules of engagement we want to start with the least amount of force you have to use, giving verbal commands, making sure they know we're there and who we are, really trying to get voluntary compliance," he said.
When that doesn't work, he said negotiators will attempt to make contact with the suspect to have a conversation and will also use robots and drones to scout the surroundings before "having to put deputies in danger."
"It's dynamic in every situation. A lot of times, we have people that comply ... (This situation) is unfortunate and sad but I'm so grateful for those deputies, that they're OK, and the neighborhood is safe," Lucero said.
No deputies were injured in the shooting.
The name of the suspect will be released by the Pueblo County Coroner’s Office at a later time. The names of the deputies involved are not being released at this time, PCSO said in its release. Two sheriff's deputies have been placed on administrative leave, per PCSO's standard operating procedure.
The circumstances surrounding the shooting are still being investigated. PCSO said in its release there is no apparent threat to the community. However, due to the ongoing investigation there will be a heavy law enforcement presence in the area for several hours.
PCSO said in its release no further information will be released at this time.
The CIRT includes members of the Pueblo Police Department, Colorado State Patrol, 10th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Colorado Bureau of Investigations, and PCSO.
PCSO is currently facing a lawsuit in federal court filed by the family of Richard Ward, who was shot and killed by PCSO deputy Charles McWhorter in February 2022.
More on the Ward family lawsuit:Pueblo County, sheriff's deputies sued for 2022 fatal shooting outside middle school
Body camera footage from the incident showed McWhorter and another PSCO deputy pull Ward out of the back of a vehicle he was in after responding to a suspicious persons call at Liberty Point International School, and engaging in a brief struggle with Ward before McWhorter drew his firearm and shot Ward three times in the chest at point-blank range.
Both deputies in that case were later cleared of any wrongdoing in a letter authored by 10th Judicial District Attorney Jeff Chostner. The lawsuit is ongoing.
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This article originally appeared on The Pueblo Chieftain: Man shot, killed by Pueblo County sheriff's deputies in standoff