09/27/2006

Chief says suspect didn't know victim was a Colo. cop

Javier Erik Olvera
Rocky Mountain News
Copyright 2006 Denver Publishing Company
Staff writer Felix Doligosa contributed to this report
 
AURORA
- The man suspected of killing a police officer Wednesday and firing a bullet through a woman's windshield two days earlier apparently targeted strangers for the shocking daylight shootings.

Aurora police have ruled out the possibility that Brian Allen Washington knew Michael D. Thomas was an Aurora detective. Thomas was on duty at the time but was wearing civilian clothes and driving his own vehicle.

Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates expressed relief Thursday that Washington is off the streets and stifled a rumor that a second gunman is at large.

"We believe we have the person responsible and there is no future danger to the community," said Oates, during an emotional press conference at which six of Thomas' close colleagues spoke.

Oates said investigators "are being as thorough as possible" to determine whether Washington might be a suspect in other incidents in which someone brandished a gun or threatened strangers.

Washington, 27, made his first court appearance in the case on Thursday.

A tall, lanky man with a shaved head, Washington stayed silent until Adams County Chief Judge Harlan Bockman asked if he understood his rights.

"Yes, your honor," he answered.

Police have not released his mugshot and media were not allowed to photograph his face on Thursday. Police said Washington's photo is being used in lineups as part of their investigation.

Washington, who has a lengthy criminal history dating back to 1999, when he was charged with smuggling contraband into a prison, faces first-degree murder charges.

Oates declined to release any additional information, saying he does not want to try the case in the media or jeopardize a successful prosecution.

"No one wants to make a single mistake because so much is at stake," he said, adding that investigators have been "very meticulous" in gathering evidence.

He also made another plea for people to call police if they may have seen "anything peculiar" around noon Wednesday near the intersection of Peoria Street at Montview Boulevard, where Thomas was shot.

"To honor Mike, the best thing to do is hold the person responsible accountable," said Oates, who requested that Washington's picture not be publicized so it wouldn't affect photo lineups.

Thomas, 52, a 24-year veteran of the department, was on a lunch break during a daylong training exercise when he was shot in the left side while waiting for a light to change.

Two corrections officers passing by scrambled out of their van and tackled the suspect, who was later identified as Washington.

A police officer also helped subdue Washington, but Oates declined to release any information about that officer.

Thomas, the father of an adult daughter, earned more than a dozen honors in his tenure and is the fourth Aurora police officer slain in the line of duty in the past 25 years.

His death came a day shy of the 19th anniversary of the day Edward John Hockam was killed. Hockam was the last Aurora officer killed on duty.

Oates said Denver police had been seeking Washington in connection with a shooting that occurred around 10 a.m. Monday.

Denver police say a man crossing the intersection at 33rd Avenue and Pontiac Street fired a single shot at the windshield of Vernice Griffin's Isuzu Amigo.

Griffin couldn't be reached for comment on Thursday, but in earlier interviews she said she didn't know the man who fired the shot that pierced her windshield and backseat after she ducked to avoid getting hit.

The 55-year-old woman said she remained calm as she drove east on 33rd Avenue while the gunman fled west on foot. She would only say that the encounter was "horrible."

A fund has been established to help Thomas' family. Donations can be sent to The Mike Thomas Fund at the Rocky Mountain Law Enforcement Federal Credit Union.

Oates asked anyone with information to call Detective R.J. Wilson at 303-739-6106. 

Full story: ...

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