The county I’m in is pretty small, population-wise: about 4,200 people. (Geography-wise, it’s medium for the west: about 550 square miles.) As you might guess, there’s not much shopping in my county, so for groceries we pop into Montrose, which is a town of about 16,000, and is only 20 minutes away. (Montrose County has a population of around 34,000 in 2,240 square miles.) So we know the town pretty well.
Saturday evening I became aware that “something” was happening in Montrose. I have “police” radios in my house for our county, but not for Montrose; that one is in my car. So I went to the garage and grabbed my portable and turned it on, but clearly the main action was over, so I had to wait until later to find out what happened.
I knew it was bad: two ambulances had been dispatched, county deputies were in to back up the police, and even one of our ambulances helped cover their calls. I resisted the urge to call our crew to find out details; I could wait.
Yep, It Was Bad.
I found out soon enough. A domestic violence call, at an address the police were quite familiar with, had suddenly turned sour. Officers had apparently been there for over an hour when the man of the house suddenly ran, and then shots rang out.
Three cops were hit, one fatally, and the homeowner was left dead too; it’s unclear so far whether he was killed by return fire, or if he shot himself. (Update: he shot himself.)
It’s the second time a Montrose officer has been killed. The previous time was in 1983, when three cops were shot, one fatally. Weird.
I know some of the sheriff’s deputies in Montrose County, but few (any?) of the city cops. Sgt. David Kinterknecht, who was born and raised here, was only 41.
He wanted to be a cop all of his life; like me, he started out as a police cadet. Unlike me, he stayed in the business. He had two daughters, aged 12 and 16.
Officers Rodney Ragsdale, 55, and Larry Witte, 23, who were both shotgunned in the legs, will survive.
Domestic violence calls are notoriously risky for law enforcement, even in small towns, but they go in anyway and try to make peace.
Sometimes the people they’re trying to help don’t want peace. The homeowner in this case had been disfigured in a fire, and was reportedly depressed. Rather than seek help, he spread his misery to others. I’m sure he has a family too, and their memories of him will forever be tinged with tragedy and shame.
Had he thought about it, rather than let anger take him over, it could have been very different. Unfortunately for four families in a very small town, it went the wrong way.