HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. — A Colorado sheriff’s deputy killed by a man with a history of mental health problems tried to help the gunman before being shot, his boss said Friday at a funeral that drew law enforcement officers from around the state and elsewhere.
“Up until the moment he died, he was pleading with the man, ‘Let me talk to you, let me help you’ and then the killer killed him,” Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said of Deputy Zackari Parrish, 29, relaying what he heard on audio from body camera footage of the Sunday shooting.
Spurlock said he never heard anyone deal more calmly with such a situation.
Parrish and three other deputies were shot after being called to the home of Matthew Riehl, an Army veteran and former Wyoming lawyer, for the second time early on New Year’s Eve. The others managed to get away but were not able to take Parrish with them.
Riehl was later killed by a SWAT team in a gunfight that also wounded another officer. Two people in nearby units were also wounded.
A long motorcade of law enforcement officers escorted the hearse carrying Parrish’s body to Cherry Hills Community Church in the Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch, not far from the apartment complex where he was killed.
The procession along Interstate 25 was led by about 80 officers on motorcycles and ended with bagpipers and drummers escorting the hearse to the church.
Along the way, saluting firefighters stood atop a fire truck and others watched on overpasses and along streets. In two spots, large American flags were hung from ladder trucks.
Parrish leaves behind a wife, Gracie, and two young daughters.
He left a career in banking to pursue one in law enforcement. Spurlock and others who spoke said he loved his job, was passionate about serving others and had a knack for connecting with people.
His former boss, Castle Rock police Chief Jack Cauley, recalled how Parrish held a child so he would not see a parent being handcuffed.
Riehl had been hospitalized at a VA psychiatric ward in Wyoming in 2014, and at one point he was placed under a 72-hour mental health hold, but his records did not show any military service-related psychiatric disorders, according to a VA document.
The mental health hold was likely just to keep him under observation and probably would not have made it illegal for him to buy guns, FBI spokesman Stephen G. Fischer Jr. said Friday.
Police at the University of Wyoming, where Riehl attended law school, began investigating him in October over some social media posts, including a vague threat to shoot someone.
The following month they were concerned enough to contact police in Lone Tree, Colorado, where his family lives.