Springs policeman slain
By ANSLEE WILLETT THE GAZETTE
A Colorado Springs police officer was shot and killed Wednesday after he radioed dispatch that he’d spotted a fugitive near Memorial Park.
Officer Jared Jensen, 30, was pronounced dead at 12:10 p.m. at Memorial Hospital. Jensen, who was married, had been with the force for 3½ years.
The last time a Colorado Springs police officer was killed in the line of duty was in December 1982, when Mark Dabling was shot in the back after stopping an escaped prisoner from Florida.
The last area law officer to die in the line of duty was Teller County sheriff’s deputy Brent Holloway, who was shot to death in October 1995 while guarding an arson scene.
The suspect in Jensen’s killing, Jereme Lamberth, 30, wasarrested about 90 minutes after the shooting, hiding at a campground, police said. A gun that may have been used in the killing was recovered nearby, police said.
Three people who found Jensen unconscious with handcuffs in his right hand near a bus stop on Costilla Street just west of Hancock Avenue said it appeared he was shot in the head.
The suspect stood next to the officer for a minute or two before fleeing, said 21-year-old Brandon Chavez, who ran outside after hearing gunshots.
“When I said I was going to call the cops, he ran across the street and said, ‘You ain’t seen me. I was never here,’” Chavez said.
Police said two shots were fired, but they were awaiting today’s autopsy to determine how many times Jensen was shot and where.
Police received a tip about 10 a.m. Wednesday that Lamberth would be in the area of Costilla Street and Hancock Avenue. Lamberth has been wanted since Feb. 2, when he allegedly stabbed his sister more than a dozen times. She was released from a hospital within days.
Jensen, an officer with the Metro Vice, Narcotics and Intelligence Unit, was in an unmarked car, wearing jeans and a sweat shirt.
He radioed dispatch at 10:40 a.m. that he had spotted the fugitive near a bus stop, police said.
Backup officers arrived after the shooting, Police Chief Luis Velez said. It’s at the officer’s discretion whether to wait for backup, he said.
Within four minutes of Jensen’s radio call, dispatchers got calls about a shooting in the area, Velez said. Jensen didn’t return fire, Velez said, and apparently didn’t have time to pull his gun.
The solemn police chief, wearing a black mourning band over his badge, held a news conference Wednesday afternoon before dozens of officers and reporters.
“You’re never prepared to have a police officer die,” he said. “However, we all know that every moment of every day, people put on uniforms and they go to work and they may not come home.”
Jensen, who joined the department in 2002, has a brother, Sgt. Jeff Jensen, on the force.
After the shooting in the 1000 block of East Costilla Street, a woman driving by saw a man on the ground and stopped. Chavez and his roommate, Chris Peinado, ran outside.
“We were asleep,” said Peinado, 25. “I was in the back bedroom. I heard this loud boom, boom. That ain’t no backfire. That’s gunshots.”
The men found Jensen bleeding profusely.
“I didn’t even know if he was alive,” Chavez said.
At first, the suspect, wearing a trench coat and carrying a suitcase, appeared as if he’d happened upon the officer, Chavez said.
“I didn’t see a gun,” he said. “After a while, he started acting weird.”
SWAT officers were conducting surveillance on another fugitive near Vermijo Avenue and Weber Street when they were called to the shooting.
More than 75 officers, some with police dogs, and SWAT members swarmed the area between Fountain Boulevard and Pikes Peak Avenue and Hancock and Wahsatch avenues, doing yard-to-yard searches as a police helicopter circled overhead.
“We’re looking for signs of forced entry, if they’ve seen anything, if they’re acting funny,” the police radio crackled.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team and federal agents helped with the hunt.
They searched cars and urged residents to stay inside. Ten Colorado Springs School District 11 schools in the area were locked down, as was the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind, until the arrest.
Neighbors near the shooting scene looked on from their yards while police car after police car arrived with lights and sirens.
About 90 minutes after the shooting, FBI agent Joe Hunt and Mark Wood, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, spotted fresh footprints near the KOA campground off South Nevada Avenue near Interstate 25.
A man told them he had recently seen a man he didn’t know come through the area.
The agents searched cabins and found Lamberth hiding in a vacant one, Velez said. The fugitive didn’t put up a struggle. Velez didn’t know what kind of gun was recovered.
Lamberth, who also uses the last name Schweinhardt, was jailed without bail on suspicion of first-degree murder and other counts. A first-degree murder conviction can carry the death penalty in Colorado.
Chaplains were on hand for officers, and debriefing sessions will be planned.
“They need to talk about this,” the chief said.
Velez went to the hospital after the shooting and spent time with Jensen’s family.
“I don’t know the answer to whether our officer suddenly found himself in a situation that started unfolding that he had to jump into it by himself,” the chief said. “But he knowingly did that. We know that much — and he gave his life.”
Anyone who witnessed the shooting is asked to call police detective Joe Matiatos at 444-7559 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 634-STOP.
Reporters Shari Chaney Griffin
and Scott Rappold
contributed to this report.
However, that's a part of the job, and what keeps the death of one officer from turning into the deaths of many people at a criminals hands.
Goes to show.........
To serve, and protect.
Thank you for being out there for us. RIP.