Officers pinned by gunfire
A pair of Palisade police officers and a Mesa County sheriff’s deputy found themselves under fire and scrambling for cover, moments after arriving at a domestic violence call last week, according to court records made public Tuesday.
Palisade Police Sgt. Tom Carline and Officer J.C. Cooper had just arrived at 3826 G Road after being dispatched a little before 8 p.m. March 5. Cooper walked up on the passenger side of a Nissan Murano where a 53-year-old woman, allegedly abused earlier by George Romero, 60, was waiting.
That’s when Romero reportedly emerged from the house and approached the driver side of the same vehicle.
“Mr. Romero pointed the handgun at Officer Cooper and fired toward Officer Cooper,” an arrest affidavit said. “Before and during the shooting, Officer Cooper and Sgt. Carline were yelling at Mr. Romero to drop the gun.”
Sheriff’s deputy Matt King approached the home from the southeast, heard the first shot and went to take cover behind a tree, the affidavit said. The deputy said he saw Romero shoot at or toward him two times.
“After the first shot, at Officer Cooper, Officer Cooper bent down to take cover behind the vehicle and could not see where Mr. Romero fired his shots. Officer Cooper said he ducked down and feared for his life. While Officer Cooper was pinned down behind the Nissan Murano, Sgt. Carline approached from the west and fired at least one shot from his handgun at Romero.”
Romero eventually threw his gun to the ground and was arrested.
In the end, nobody was hurt.
Romero was ordered Thursday held at the Mesa County Jail on a $1 million, cash-only bond. A Mesa County prosecutor said during bond arguments on Thursday the DA’s office was prepared to file three counts of attempted first-degree murder of a peace officer after deliberation, in addition to three counts of attempted first-degree murder of a peace officer while acting with extreme indifference.
The victim of the earlier alleged abuse, Romero’s then-girlfriend, told officers he’d consumed two pints of whiskey, and was intoxicated by 2 p.m. that day, when he became violent with her after he’d asked to see her iPhone.
He allegedly pushed her into a table, injuring her hip and hitting her head. Romero retrieved a handgun from a bedroom.
“She said Romero fired one round inside the house in the kitchen area,” the affidavit said.
At one point during the incident, Romero allegedly ripped the woman’s glasses off, leaving her essentially blind. A man who lives at the home reported finding the victim on her back in the kitchen, and later, tried to block the front door after Romero had walked outside.
“Romero kicked in the front door and entered the house,” the affidavit said. “(Woman) described Romero telling her they would not leave the house alive if the police showed up.”
The woman offered this account to an investigator about the exchange of shots between Romero and officers: “(She) said, as officer arrived, she heard a shot, ran from the vehicle (Nissan Murano) and heard two additional shots from a handgun.
The woman said she then heard two more additional shots, but didn’t know who fired them or where they came from. (Woman) said she could hear (other man in home) calling to her to come to him. She said she then heard officers yelling at Romero, ‘Drop the gun.’ “
Palisade Sgt. Carline and Cooper were placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. Deputy King remains on regular patrol, Sheriff’s spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said.
The affidavit says Romero has a prior conviction in 1981 for aggravated assault on a law officer in Kansas.