Rifle officer shot, OK; suspect hit
Police shot a 53-year-old man multiple times Friday night after he shot a Rifle police officer responding to a domestic-violence call, authorities said Saturday.
The officer’s protective vest “saved his life,” Rifle Police Chief Daryl Meisner said during a news conference Saturday. Meisner said the officer was treated and released from Grand River Hospital in Rifle and should be able to return to the force.
Phillip Michael Amonette was arrested and taken from Grand River to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, where he underwent surgery and on Saturday evening was in critical condition. He was arrested on suspicion of first-degree attempted murder, and his bond was set at $1 million.
The shooting was the second involving Rifle officers in less than three months. Police say Arizona prison escapee Daniel Renwick fired at and missed an officer before police fired back and arrested him Aug. 1 in Rifle. Renwick, who wasn’t injured, remains in Garfield County Jail and faces local and Arizona charges.
“This isn’t Mayberry anymore. I don’t know how else to say it. The world has changed,” Meisner said.
Police said Friday’s incident happened at the U-Haul building at 2157 Whiteriver Ave. in Rifle. Meisner said the building apparently was being lived in. Police responded to the domestic violence call around 8:20 p.m. During the investigation, Amonette pulled a handgun while trying to flee and shot the officer, Meisner said.
“The second officer returned fire, striking the suspect,” Meisner said.
That officer wasn’t injured. Other people were in the building and were unhurt, police said.
Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said Amonette “was struck more than once,” but Vallario said he can’t disclose how many times. Vallario said he couldn’t discuss Amonette’s condition other than to say he was in recovery from surgery and doctors had said Friday there is a good chance he will live.
Rifle police turned over investigation of the case to the Sheriff’s Department, which will be assisted by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
The shooting occurred on both sides of a rear garage door that was partly up. Amonette was arrested outside. A bullet hole was visible in the door Saturday.
Police aren’t immediately releasing the officers’ names.
“We want to give them time to get their arms around this tragic ordeal,” Vallario said.
Meisner said the officer who was shot is in his 20s. He said he believes both officers have worked for the department for about five years. They have been assigned to administrative duties.
Meisner said he can’t elaborate on the circumstances behind the domestic-violence call.
Rifle police arrested Amonette in February on suspicion of misdemeanor assault and menacing after responding to another domestic-violence call. He also was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in 1992 in Lafayette.
Authorities said Amonette has lived on and off in Garfield County.
A telephone listing showed he had a forklift-repair business in Silt, but the number is no longer in service.
Silt Mayor David Moore said Amonette was seen around town often and known by a lot of people there. Moore didn’t know Amonette well, but he said he walked with a limp, “was very poor,” worked out of the back of a truck and drove an old, rundown Jeep.
He said he gave Amonette money once when Amonette asked to borrow some for food, and he hired Amonette to work on his backhoe.
“I tried to create a little bit of work for him so he would feel justified taking some money from me,” Moore said.
Meisner said he believes the last shooting of an officer in Rifle before Friday was in 1984.
“I have complete confidence in my officers,” he said. “They were in a very difficult situation. They did a very difficult task. These are great officers, and I’m very proud of them.”