WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. — The family of a man shot and killed Thursday by officers in Wheat Ridge is calling his death an injustice.
June Espinoza said her longtime live-in partner, Todd Fiepke, was a loving father, a loyal friend, and a kind and generous person.
“He would give the last dollar out of his pocket to a homeless person,” Espinoza said.
But, according to Espinoza, Fiepke also suffered from serious mental issues, which she said could explain why Fiepke wandered onto a street in Wheat Ridge on Thursday firing a shotgun in the air, and was then killed by police.
“He said he was tired; he was just tired,” Espinoza said. “I think he was just down and out on top of all his mental health issues because he hadn’t worked in over a year-and-a-half because he had two heart attacks.”
The call came in to 911 right around 1:45 p.m. Thursday. A man carrying a shotgun on West 29th Avenue. Wheat Ridge police said when officers responded, they saw the man firing the gun in the air.
“The male stopped in the intersection of 29th and Sheridan, challenging police on multiple occasions while brandishing the shotgun,” said Wheat Ridge Division Chief Darrel Guadnola.
When Fiepke refused to put the gun down, police say they shot him to protect themselves and bystanders. According to cell phone video of the incident, about three minutes elapsed from the time police officers told Fiepke to drop his gun until they shot him. Fiepke died at the scene. Police have not yet confirmed his name, but his grieving partner said it was Fiepke, whose death she said was unnecessary and avoidable.
“They could have called me or they could have called someone to talk him down. He was wrongfully killed," Espinoza said.
Wheat Ridge police said all the officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave, per the department's policy.
The First Judicial District's Critical Incident Response Team is coordinating the investigation into the shooting.
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