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Suspect in Arvada robbery had 2-year-old daughter in vehicle during shootout with detective

The suspect told investigators he needed the money to "purchase oxycodone," an arrest affidavit says. The Denver detective was shot at least twice and is recovering.

ARVADA, Colo. — The man accused of shooting and wounding an off-duty detective with the Denver Police Department (DPD) who confronted him during an armed robbery at an Arvada gas station said he “needed money to purchase oxycodone,” according to an arrest affidavit from the Arvada Police Department (APD).

Samuel McConnell, 43, was arrested Wednesday afternoon following a metrowide search for his vehicle — a gold Chevy Equinox. McConnell told investigators that his 2-year-old daughter was seated in that vehicle at the time the robbery occurred, according to the affidavit.

An anonymous caller reported they saw the suspect’s vehicle in the parking lot of an apartment complex in the 8300 block of Sheridan Boulevard later Wednesday, according to the affidavit.

The caller said the vehicle had front-end damage and the driver’s side tail light was also damaged, the affidavit says. There was also damage to the front windshield. McConnell was arrested at the complex when he left an apartment to walk his dog, the affidavit says.

Credit: Provided by Arvada Police Department
Samuel McConnell

He is accused of robbing the Circle K in the area of West 80th Avenue and Kipling Street in Arvada just before 9 a.m. Wednesday morning.

An employee of the Circle K said the suspect walked in “all covered up” and he “knew exactly what was happening” because he was aware of a prior armed robbery at an Erie gas station, the affidavit says.

The clerk said he alerted a customer, who ran outside, and then the suspect “immediately came behind the counter.” He said the man had a handgun but that he had a “hard time paying attention,” the affidavit says.

He told police the suspect tried to open one cash drawer and then tried to forcefully remove the drawer from a second register, the affidavit says.

Eventually, the clerk used a key to open the drawer, and the suspect took about $200, the affidavit says. He said the suspect said something like “you did the right thing. Thanks for cooperating”, and then left.

The clerk said after the suspect exited he immediately heard “five to eight gunshots," according to the affidavit.

An off-duty DPD detective was at the gas station with his son filling their truck with gas when a customer ran out and said that the store was being robbed, the affidavit says. The detective, who has not been identified, said he was armed and attempted to engage the suspect when he ran out, according to the affidavit.

"We put our lives on the line and it shows today when that Denver officer, when he was off-duty tried to intervene in an armed robbery," said Sara Horan with APD. "It shows that he kind of went above and beyond what his duties were and unfortunately was injured."

The detective said he was “unsure if he got any shots off” because the gun either malfunctioned or jammed, the affidavit says.

APD later determined from surveillance video that the detective fired at least one shot, which hit the driver’s side front windshield of the suspect’s vehicle. 

McConnell told investigators that he returned fire and said his 2-year-old daughter was in the vehicle with him, the affidavit says. He fled the parking lot south, collided with a passerby's vehicle and fled northbound on Kipling Parkway, according to an APD bulletin.

The detective, who has been with DPD for 14 years, was shot at least twice in his arms. He had wounds to his left forearm, right forearm and right shoulder area, the affidavit says.

"I speak for all of our Denver family, that is a call that you don't ever want to receive — thankfully in this situation, we believe a member [of] our family is going to be OK," said DPD Chief Paul Pazen while choking back tears at a news conference. "I know this impacts every member of this department who wears this badge, as well as every family who supports our department. It's tough, but it's a good thing."

The detective’s son called 911 and he and another witness provided immediate first aid until help arrived. He’s still in the hospital and was listed in fair condition.

"It's got to be hard for the family to know that their loved one was shot so close to the holiday," Horan said. "We're extremely fortunate that he's alive."

McConnell was a suspect in two prior armed robberies, one in Erie and one in Westminster.

Around 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 16, a man with a handgun demanded money from the register at the Circle K convenience store located at the intersection of Highway 287 and Arapahoe Road in Erie, according to a bulletin from Erie Police (EPD).

After getting money, the suspect left northbound on Highway 287 in a vehicle described as a gold Chevrolet Equinox made between 2010 and 2015, according to EPD.

Credit: Erie Police
The suspect in the shooting of an off-duty Denver detective might also be responsible for two other recent robberies.

The Winchells Donuts at 7930 Sheridan Blvd. was robbed under similar circumstances around 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the department said.

Cheri Spottke with Westminster police said no one was hurt in the incident. She said the suspect description in that robbery matches the suspect in the incident in Arvada Wednesday. Spottke said Thursday detectives "are confident" McConnell is also responsible for robbing Winchells and are coordinating their investigation with the other departments.

McConnell willingly spoke with police following his arrest and admitted that he committed all three robberies, the affidavit says. He also said he intended to rob someone at an ATM at a Chase Bank on Monday, but “became scared” and left the area.  

He also told investigators that he had removed the license plates from the vehicle in an effort to conceal his identity, but said he pulled over after the robbery and put them back on, the affidavit says.

McConnell faces charges of attempted first-degree murder and aggravated robbery in the Arvada case. EPD said they will pursue charges of aggravated robbery, felony menacing and theft.

"If he was making those decisions, I'm glad he did get caught," said Taylor Reid, McConnell's roommate.

RELATED: What is a Blue Alert?

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) sent a Blue Alert at around 1 p.m. on Wednesday asking the public to be on the lookout for the vehicle and suspect. A spokesperson for CBI said this is the second time a Blue Alert has been issued since it was signed into law in November 2011.

A Blue Alert is issued when there is imminent danger posed by a suspect(s) who has killed or seriously injured a peace officer. More information on Blue Alerts can be found here.

RELATED: Arvada carjacking leads to manhunt; female suspect identified

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