Greely, CO-- Mistakes made by Weld County deputies led to an inmate overpowering an officer, taking his gun, and a subsequent stand-off, an internal investigation revealed.
9NEWS spoke with Weld County Sheriff John Cooke who said the internal investigation in the escape of Raul Alaniz Friday July 13 was nearing completion. Cooke said the deputies involved will face disciplinary action that could go as far as firing.
Cooke said Alaniz was arrested by Greeley Police after he didn't show up for a parole hearing. Cooke said the 32-year-old was also accused of breaking into cars and fighting police officers.
Alaniz was in custody at the jail when he complained of having blood in his urine. Deputies took him to the North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley.
Cooke said Alaniz was in the hospital for several hours waiting for tests to be completed when he complained to the deputy guarding him his hand cuffs were too tight.
That's when the deputy, who served two tours a year each in Iraq and Afghanistan for the U.S. Army, started making mistakes Cooke said.
"The handcuffing was totally inappropriate," Cooke said. "The officer loosened the handcuffs so loose he was able to get his hand out. Obviously the inmate jumping the officer and ambushing him and being able to take his gun was a mistake and something that should not have happened."
Cooke said the officer has been employed with the Weld County Sheriff's Department for less than a year.
"It is kind of a shock," Cooke said. "He did two tours in a war zone. He was a post academy graduate. He went through a police academy. We have 9 weeks of training in house, where they also receive training on handcuffing and how to fight and how to protect your gun and self defense."
On the way out of the room, Cooke said Alaniz almost killed a firefighter who heard the commotion and went into the room. The firefighter wished to not be named.
"The suspect turned around, pointed the gun at the fireman and pulled the trigger. The gun didn't go of," Cooke said. "It wasn't working."
Cooke said it took Alaniz 16 seconds to leave the hospital room and get outside, while having ankles shackled.
He pointed the gun at various people he encountered along the way, including doctors, nurses and patients, according to Cooke. There were at least a dozen people near the entrance. Cooke said had Alaniz killed the firefighter, he could've hurt more people.
"If he'd shot the fireman, after you shoot one person, the rest don't matter," Cooke said. "Thank God the gun malfunctioned."
The investigation has not determined why exactly the deputy's gun didn't fire. It might have jammed, Cooke said.
As it took Alaniz 16 seconds to get outside, it took the Deputy he overpowered 30 seconds to get there, according to the investigation findings.
"I think he was stunned mentally," Cooke said. "I think that was the biggest part. He didn't know how to react once he got attacked and the gun was taken. I think he was in a fog."
According to Cooke, once Alaniz got outside, he was met by a female deputy returning from lunch to relieve the male who'd been overpowered.
Alaniz threatened her with his weapon and she took cover, investigators found.
"She did a lot of things she was supposed to do," Cooke said. "She drew her gun. She was trying to keep eyes on the inmate but couldn't because of the way the building was situated. Once she did spot him, she got in her car, because she knew he was going out into the neighborhood."
Cooke said the this deputy has been doing an "exemplary" job working corrections for four years and recently had been promoted to work the streets. She's received appropriate training, Cooke said.
"She's been out on the street one week and to have an inmate escape and point a gun at your head, most people go through their entire career and never have that happen to them," Cooke said.
Cooke said the deputies' supervisor also made mistakes by not printing out an assessment that would tell him how dangerous Alaniz was.
These events, according to Cooke, led to the Department looking at adjusting procedure, including buying new handcuffs. They're also not allowing inmates to walk to the bathroom during a hospital visit. Inmates will have to use a bed pan.
Weld County will also buy new holsters for the officers' guns. The agency's current holsters are used by most departments, but there are better ones can be purchased.
"I'm embarrassed that this happened, because as the head of the agency you don't ever want to see this happen," Cooke said. "When you think about the possibilities that day, [it] just about made me sick to my stomach. We do a vast majority of the things right, almost 99 percent right. Occasionally things will happen, and we'll make a mistake. I think people have the right to know we're taking it seriously. We're looking into it. We're going to correct any of the issues that we find during the internal investigation."
Cooke is not prepared to discuss the disciplinary measures against the officers yet. But says those measures will be in effect next week.