Grand Jury to review Schroetlin’s shooting of burglary suspect

Lance Maggart
Art Ferrari / Special to the Sky-Hi News
Staff Photo |

The 14th Judicial District Grand Jury is taking up the Snooty Coyote burglary case for investigation as jurors review evidence from the incident that occurred on Sept. 15.

Along with reviewing evidence related to the burglary, the Grand Jury is also investigating Sheriff Brett Schroetlin’s shooting of suspect Connor MacLaird during the ensuing on-scene investigation. The 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office issued a press release Tuesday evening announcing DA Brett Barkey’s decision to bring the investigation to the Grand Jury.

“I have asked the 14th Judicial District’s Grand Jury to investigate the September 15, 2015 incident in Tabernash where Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin shot and wounded a suspect who is alleged to have attacked him with a knife,” the release says.

It goes on to state that Senate Bill 14-219 requires the DA to announce when an officer-involved shooting is referred to a Grand Jury.

All Grand Jury proceedings are conducted in secret. Grand Jurors are pulled from all three of the counties that comprise the 14th Judicial District. Representatives from the DA’s office confirmed no official charges have been brought against MacLaird yet and any decision regarding charges will be made by the Grand Jury.

MacLaird, 20, was shot by Sheriff Schroetlin during the early morning hours of Sept. 15 in Tabernash. Law enforcement officials were in Tabernash following reports of a burglary of the Snooty Coyote Liquor Store. During on-scene investigations officers located a suspect, MacLaird.

A press release issued by law enforcement shortly after the shooting stated, “When contacted, the suspect advanced toward the responding law enforcement officers. The suspect was allegedly brandishing a knife at the officers as he advanced; the suspect was shot by law enforcement.”

Sheriff Schroetlin was on scene with his personal canine unit following a request for assistance in finding the suspect. On the scene that evening were three other deputies from the Grand County Sheriff’s Office and one officer from the Fraser/Winter Park Police Department.

Representatives from the DA’s office confirmed Chief Deputy District Attorney Heather Stein would be a part of the team working on the investigation. Stein is married to former Grand County Undersheriff John Stein who ran a write-in candidacy for Grand County Sheriff against Schroetlin during the 2014 election.

When asked if the DA’s office considered Mrs. Stein’s participation in the investigation any type of a conflict of interest, DA Barkey, through representatives from his office, stated, “no comment.”

Shooting details

An affidavit in support of an arrest warrant for MacLaird details some of what happened in the late evening of Sept. 14 and early morning hours of Sept. 15.

Law enforcement was called to the Snooty Coyote Liquor Store in Tabernash at 1:26 a.m. on Sept. 15 for a burglary in progress. The affidavit states, “When officers arrived they found the store had been broken in an apparent ‘smash and grab’ type burglary. The front door glass had been smashed. They learned from the reporting party that the suspect had left the scene riding a bicycle.”

The affidavit explains that officers located a bicycle on Grand County Road 523 that had blood on it during their initial investigation. Shortly afterwards officers located blood outside the Fireside Inn in Tabernash near Unit 2 of the motel, in both the rear and front of the unit. The Fireside Inn is approximately 200 yards away from the Snooty Coyote Liquor Store.

Officers also discovered a “dark colored duffle bag at the rear of the Fireside Inn near what they believed to be Unit 2. The bag appeared to have blood on it and contained what they believed to be alcohol bottles.”

The affidavit explains that officers knocked on the door of Unit 2 at the Fireside Inn and received no response. Judging the presence of blood to constitute “exigent circumstance” the officers forced entry into Unit 2.

The affidavit goes on to detail the moments immediately leading up to Sheriff Schroetlin shooting MacLaird.

The affidavit states, “Officers knocked and announced their presence again and again received no answer. Officers then made a forcible entry into Unit 2. However, there was something blocking the door where the door would not open all the way … Sheriff Schroetlin was standing directly in front of the door on the porch … Sheriff Schroetlin confirmed he was wearing his ballistic vest over a shirt which had the markings he was with the Sheriff’s Office. However, the markings identifying him as law enforcement were covered. Additionally, several announcements were made by Officers identifying them before entry.”

The affidavit then details the shooting itself.

“Sheriff Schroetlin heard a man say, ‘What the (explicative)?’ from the rear of the residence. Sheriff Schroetlin then observed a white male holding an elongated object in his hand. Sheriff Schroetlin then identified the elongated object as being a large knife. MacLaird kept advancing towards Sheriff Schroetlin with the knife raised in a threatening manner. Sheriff Schroetlin ordered the male party to drop the knife two times. The male did not comply and continued advancing towards Sheriff Schroetlin with the knife raised in his hand. Sheriff Schroetlin made the decision to fire his duty firearm at the male party striking the male party multiple times.”

The affidavit goes on to say that when MacLaird was asked what happened by responding paramedics, he said, “(Expletive) suicide by cop bro.”

MacLaird is still being held in the Jefferson County Jail. No official charges have been filed against him though he has received booking charges that include assault on a peace officer and burglary.

Charges are accusations and are not tantamount to guilt.

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