By Mike Bauman
The death of Deputy Sam Brownlee is a tragedy for Weld County. Watching the coverage in local papers added insult to injury.
Here are the facts according to well-placed sources in the various agencies:
1) Deputies chased a known felon and gang member, Rueben Reyes, after his girlfriend reported he had stolen her car following a domestic assault. There appears to have been some confusion as to whether Reyes, who had been convicted months earlier for felony menacing (effectively threatening someone with a deadly weapon), was armed. At one point, dispatcher advised deputies, “Suspect armed and dangerous; armed robbery suspect is out of Morgan County.” Deputies contemplated discontinuing the chase as it entered Greeley. However, based on the totality of the circumstances known to them at the time, deputies continued the chase, ultimately stopping Reyes in the Cave Creek Subdivision in Evans. No one was hurt or has reported being put into jeopardy by the chase.
2) At the conclusion of the chase, Reyes apparently exited or was removed from his vehicle and refused to cooperate with the officers’ orders. A taser was reportedly utilized. However, the taser, which depends on two barbed probes being fired into the suspect’s skin, was ineffective, as one barb struck Reyes in the leg and the other struck his “hoodie” sweatshirt. Both probes must contact skin in order for the electric current to pass through the suspect, temporarily incapacitating him. Officers reportedly tried twice to tase Reyes using the probes and once without them (effectively using the taser as a stun gun). When the taser didn’t work, officers (there were several on-scene) attempted to take Reyes into custody using empty-hand control techniques. This resulted in officers wrestling with Reyes.
3) During the course of this “wrestling match,” Reyes apparently saw, and took, the opportunity to pull Deputy Brownlee’s weapon from its holster. Reyes then shot Brownlee three times. One shot hit Brownlee’s hand. A second struck him in the bullet resistant vest and stopped. The third apparently bounced off of something on Brownlee’s torso then struck him in the head and face. Bullets typically do not glance off bullet resistant vests, which are cloth and handily absorb a bullet’s energy. There is some speculation that the bullet actually glanced off Brownlee’s badge or off a metal trauma plate which officers often wear in a special pocket in their vest carrier.
4) An Evans Officer then shot Reyes three times from “touch distance,” at which point Reyes stopped his aggressive movements and medical help was summoned for both parties.
5) Greeley Police Department was tasked with handling the investigation, as Evans and Weld County were the agencies involved in the shooting.
6) Both Reyes’ and Brownlee’s deaths are categorized as homicides, which is loosely defined as one person killing another. However, the term homicide is not an indication of any misconduct. The Evans Officer was put on administrative leave as a matter of policy, not due to any cloud of suspicion.
7) On a personal note: This writer knows the Evans Officer in question. I will state with complete confidence that this officer is one of the most level-headed, least badge heavy officers I have ever worked with. I can state with complete confidence that the officer would not have used force unless it was absolutely necessary to effect an arrest or to protect lives I also spoke to other officers who stated this officer “did good” in this incident.
Out of consideration for the officer and his family’s privacy and safety, the Greeley Gazette will not be identifying the officer. However, we salute this public servant as a hero to our community and pray for their continued well-being.