02/24/2006

Colo. detective killed as he tries to arrest man wanted in stabbing

Dick Foster, Rocky Mountain News
 
COLORADO SPRINGS 

Copyright 2006 Denver Publishing Company

A Colorado Springs police officer was fatally shot Wednesday morning on an eastside neighborhood street as he tried to arrest a fugitive wanted in connection with stabbing his sister earlier this month.

Jared S. Jensen, 30, a plainclothes detective with the city's Vice, Narcotics and Intelligence unit who had been on the police force 3 1/2 years, was shot in the head at close range just after 10:40 a.m. as he confronted Jereme Lamberth, also known as Jeremy Schweinhardt.

The officer's last contact with his department came minutes earlier when he told dispatchers over his radio that he thought he'd spotted the suspect and planned to stop him. The confrontation took place on Costilla Street, one block from Memorial Park, about six blocks east of the downtown, police said.

Two residents, who rushed out of their house after hearing two gunshots, found Jensen shot in the head and lying on their front lawn.

"He was bleeding from the side of his head. He wasn't responsive. He was just laying there. He was in pretty bad shape. I didn't even know if he was alive," said Brandon Chavez, a resident of the house. Chavez's friend, who corroborated the account, did not want to be identified.

Chavez said Jensen was still holding his handcuffs in one hand, but had apparently not drawn a weapon to confront his assailant.

A man was standing by Jensen, clad in a trench coat and carrying a briefcase. Although he didn't know it at the time, Chavez later learned he was the man suspected of shooting Jensen. "I didn't even know he did it. When I said I was going to call the cops, he took off," Chavez said.

Another witness, Alexandra Rivera, said she had just turned the corner onto Costilla Street moments after the shooting when she saw Jensen lying on the lawn with Chavez, his friend and the man standing beside him. "(The suspect) seemed calm, until we said the cops were coming. Then he was gone. He told us, 'You didn't see me. You don't know me,' and he was gone," said Rivera.

None of the witnesses saw the man display a gun. He ran west to the corner, then north, deeper into the neighborhood.

Within two minutes, witnesses said, police arrived. Jensen was rushed to Memorial Hospital about six blocks away and frantic efforts began to save his life.

Police closed down the neighborhood in an intensive manhunt. More than 70 officers converged and cordoned off a 40-block area around the shooting. Five schools were locked down, including the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind.

Lamberth somehow slipped through the police dragnet and made his way west a half-mile into the downtown, then south another half-mile to a vacant trailer in a closed recreational vehicle park on South Nevada Avenue. As doctors fought unsuccessfully to save Jensen, law enforcement officers from around the city joined in the search.

Two federal agents, Joel Hunt of the FBI and Marc Wood of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, were searching south of downtown when they noticed fresh footprints and talked to a witness who saw the trench coat-clad man enter an unoccupied trailer in the park.

The agents arrested Lamberth without incident at 12:13 p.m., three minutes after Jensen was pronounced dead.

A weapon was recovered nearby, police said.

Lamberth was being held without bail at the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center for investigation of first-degree murder. An advisement hearing is scheduled for this afternoon.

Prosecutors declined to discuss possible charges, saying the investigation is ongoing. Witnesses described hearing two shots, but investigators are awaiting the results of an autopsy to determine how many times Jensen was shot.

Police and other city officials struggled late Wednesday to deal with their shock and to understand the morning confrontation.

"Today is a very sad day in the city of Colorado Springs. One of our officers lost his life in the line of duty and we are terribly saddened," said Mayor Lionel Rivera at a 4 p.m. news conference.

"We are terribly saddened, and on behalf of all our community, we want to extend our condolences to the family, to all the officers of the Colorado Springs Police Department and our city work force. It's a very tough day."

Police Chief Luis Velez said Jensen had been an excellent officer, who "during his short time on the department had already received two commander's commendations."

"He served this community very well. He served it honorably and he died courageously," said Velez.

Police had been searching for Lamberth since Feb. 2, when he was accused of stabbing his sister 13 times after an argument.

Velez said that police received a telephone tip about 10 a.m. Wednesday that Lamberth would be in the eastside neighborhood.

Jensen, one of several officers cruising the area in search of Lamberth, was alone when he spotted him.

"At 10:40 a.m., he informed dispatch he'd be out at Costilla (Street) and Hancock (Avenue) and that he had spotted a possible suspect," Velez said. Four minutes later, three phone calls in rapid succession reported the shooting.

Why Jensen did not wait for help from other officers, no one knows, said Velez. It's also unclear whether more support would have made a difference. "There was a call for backup, but as apparently things worked out, before the backup was able to get there was when the confrontation took place," the chief said.

"I could just tell you from 31 years of being in this business myself, when you have a violent confrontation, it is absolutely incredible how fast that unfolds," Velez said. "Usually if we were talking about seconds, that would be pretty fast. In reality, it becomes nanoseconds."

Velez said it was his understanding that Jensen had his handcuffs out when he was shot. Velez said Jensen apparently did not have time to draw his weapon to defend himself.

"Given the circumstances that we have, we certainly can deduce that the officer did wind up talking to this individual, and that during that time or shortly thereafter, a violent confrontation takes place, the suspect pulls a weapon and shoots that officer," Velez said.

Lamberth had a criminal record before being sought in the Feb. 2 stabbing of his sister. He served a six-year prison sentence that ended in 2004.

Jensen was the first Colorado Springs police officer to die in the line of duty since Mark Dabling, who was shot in the back after a traffic stop in December 1982.

Posted on the Colorado Springs Police Department's Web site was a Feb. 8 wanted poster for Lamberth. It included the following line: "He is considered armed and dangerous. DO NOT approach."

INFOBOX

Fallen officers in Colorado

Law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty in the past 14 years:

* April 13, 1992: El Paso County sheriff's deputy Hugh Martin, killed during a narcotics raid.

* Nov. 4, 1992: Lyle Wohlers, a Colorado State Patrol trooper, shot near Georgetown when he stopped two men for a traffic violation.

* Feb. 3, 1993: Deputy Sheriff Tony Silva, accidentally shot while delivering a prisoner at the Denver County Jail.

* Oct. 27, 1993: Arapahoe County sheriff's investigator Roland Lackey died of a heart attack at the sheriff's headquarters.

* April 16, 1994: Boulder police officer Beth Haynes, shot while responding to a domestic dispute.

* Nov. 18, 1994: Hinsdale County Sheriff Roger Coursey, shot in the chest by two bank robbers.

* Feb. 26, 1995: Shawn Leinen, a Denver police officer, shot while chasing a 16-year-old he suspected of trying to steal a car.

* April 28, 1995: Jefferson County sheriff's Sgt. Timothy Mossbrucker, gunned down in an Albertson's parking lot while responding to a shooting.

* Oct. 10, 1995: Larimer County sheriff's Cpl. Ronald Beatty died of a heart attack after an altercation with a man to whom he had served a criminal summons.

* Oct. 16, 1995: Teller County sheriff's Deputy Brent Holloway was found shot in his patrol car.

* Oct. 26, 1996: Buena Vista police officer Trevor Staszak was struck by a car on U.S. 285.

* March 26, 1997: Ron DeHerrera, a Denver police officer, died after the patrol car he was riding in collided with a car driven by a teenage car thief.

* Nov. 12, 1997: Bruce VanderJagt, a Denver police officer, killed in a shootout with a fleeing burglary suspect.

* May 29, 1998: Cortez police officer Dale Claxton, killed when he stopped a water truck and was ambushed by men firing automatic weapons.

* May 21, 1999: Douglas County sheriff's motorcycle officer Ronald King, killed when hit by a drunken driver on U.S. 85.

* Sept. 6, 2000: Denver motorcycle patrolman Dennis Licata died of head injuries after losing control of his motorcycle and smashing into a car.

* Jan. 23, 2001: Jason Manspeaker, a Colorado State Patrol trooper, killed when his patrol car slid off Interstate 70 near Loveland Pass and hit a parked heavy equipment trailer.

* May 6, 2001: Ryan Cunningham, a Vail police officer, jumped from a 60-foot bridge and fell to his death as he tried to avoid a semi sliding sideways on Interstate 70.

* May 8, 2005: Donald Young, a Denver police officer, shot while working off-duty at a baptismal party.

Source: Colorado Law Enforcement Memorial, Rocky Mountain News Archives 

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