DENVER – The gunman who killed a Colorado sheriff’s deputy escaped from the mental health ward of a VA hospital in Wyoming in 2014 but was returned, according to a Veterans Affairs document obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.
The document was provided by a congressional aide on condition of anonymity because the aide was not authorized to release it. The document was first reported by The Denver Post.
The gunman, Matthew Riehl, fatally shot Douglas County Deputy Zackari Parrish and wounded four other officers on Sunday, Colorado authorities said. Riehl was killed by a SWAT team.
The VA document said Riehl was hospitalized at the veterans medical center in Sheridan, Wyoming, in April 2014 after a psychotic episode. The document said he escaped but was found and brought back.
The VA issued a statement saying it “cannot ordinarily discuss the specific care of any veteran without a privacy release.”
The VA document also said he had an “urgent contact for mental health” with another VA facility in July 2015. It did not describe the nature of the contact or say where that facility was, but it was in the VA’s Eastern Colorado Health Care System, which includes a hospital in Denver and nine clinics in other cities.
The document said Riehl was on multiple medications in 2015 stemming from an earlier hospitalization, but it did not say what those medications were or why they had been prescribed.
The document identified Riehl as an honorably discharged Army. It said his records did not list military service-related psychiatric disorders.
Colorado authorities said Riehl served in Iraq.
Officials said Riehl, 37, was armed with a rifle and ambushed the officers at his apartment in Highlands Ranch, 16 miles south of Denver.
Four deputies, including Parrish. A police officer was wounded later.
The wounded officers managed to get away but had to leave Parrish behind because of their injuries and the ongoing gunfire. Two people in nearby apartment units were also wounded.
The SWAT team arrived about 1½ hours after the confrontation began, and Riehl was killed in a gunfight. Authorities said Riehl fired more than 100 rounds during the standoff.
Riehl made videos showing himself calling 911 and then opening his door and talking to responding officers.
The footage, livestreamed on Periscope, was obtained by Denver’s KUSA-TV. The station broadcast clips from two videos in which Riehl says he would not hurt anyone except to defend himself before calling authorities.
“Maybe I bought over 1,000 rounds of ammunition from Walmart. It’s not illegal,” he says.
When authorities arrive at Riehl’s apartment, the footage shows him talking to at least two officers, telling them he wants to file an emergency restraining order against his domestic partner. He is upset when one officer offers to give him a phone number to call, and leaves the doorway to go back into a room.
At another point, Riehl is seen holding a glass and saying he’s had two scotches. He is heard saying that drinking would help him defend himself.
The TV station said Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock verified the authenticity of the videos and said the 911 call made by Riehl was the second one from his apartment on Sunday.
The first 911 call was made by Riehl’s roommate, who said Riehl might be having a mental breakdown. Responding deputies found no evidence of a crime and left.
The footage shows the shooting but the station did not air it. A clip purporting to show it has been posted elsewhere.
Riehl previously posted videos criticizing Colorado law enforcement officers in profane terms.
Riehl attended the Wyoming College of Law in Laramie. Law college students had been warned about Riehl because of his social media posts.
A Nov. 6 email from Assistant College of Law Dean Lindsay Hoyt told students to notify campus police if they spotted Riehl or his car near campus.
Campus officers called police in Lone Tree, Colorado, in mid-November to warn them about Riehl, suggesting his rants were indicative of mental illness, UW Police Chief Mike Samp said.
Riehl was licensed as a lawyer for five years in Wyoming and voluntarily gave up his license in 2016, said Wyoming Bar Association director Sharon Wilkinson.
Wilkinson says the bar received no complaints about Riehl.