Report: Grand County Sheriff’s deputy acted in self-defense in Tabernash shooting
January 29, 2009
Grand County, Colorado, Sheriff’s Deputy Rochalle Rooks acted in self-defense ” and did so only after several attempts to avoid it ” when he shot a motorist during an altercation in Tabernash, according to the months-long district attorney’s investigation of the incident.
The Oct. 6, 2008, shooting left David Christopher North (aka Christopher David Dalgarn), 23, of Granby, paralyzed from the neck down, said his mother, Dawn North of Granby.
The seven-page report prepared by the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s office, dated Jan. 26, says Rooks shot North after North continued to assault him and tried to take away his gun. Before shooting, Rooks repeated warnings to “stop .. get down … I’ll shoot.”
“Deputy Rooks said he was ‘terrified’ by Mr. Dalgarn’s actions,” the report says. “Deputy Rooks believed Mr. Dalgarn’s attack and attempts to disarm him constituted a deadly force assault. Deputy Rooks fired at the suspect from a close range of approximately 4 to 5 feet as the suspect was advancing. Mr. Dalgarn hunched over briefly and then came at him again. He repeatedly yelled at Mr. Dalgarn to ‘stop’ before and after the first shot. Deputy Rooks said he fired approximately two more times and Mr. Dalgarn went down in front of him.”
North was not armed during the altercation. He suffered gunshot wounds to his neck, lower left abdomen/groin area, lower left back/upper buttocks and to the “pinky” finger of his left hand, according to the report.
Life as a quadriplegic
“That’s one side of the story, anyway,” Dawn North said during a telephone conversation Thursday. “I find it odd that no one took the time to even question my son.”
She said David is being treated at Craig Hospital in Denver and is “learning to live his life as a quadriplegic.”
In a separate conversation on Wednesday, she described her son’s efforts to improve and said, “He is the strongest person I have ever known in my life.”
“We made attempts to interview Mr. Dalgarn,” said Matthew Harmon, an investigator for the DA’s office who was involved in the investigation. He said authorities were initially foiled by North’s physical condition, then by the legal system.
“We were told by his legal representative not to talk to him.”
District Attorney Elizabeth Oldham said Wednesday that her office intends to bring criminal charges against David North.
Specific charges are “awaiting a copy of Mr. Dalgarn’s records pursuant to a search warrant and the results of the forensic analysis of evidence sent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation,” the report says.
“They’re doing what they have to do, and we’re doing what we have to,” Dawn North said of any pending court action.
A fateful traffic call
The incident began when Rooks responded to a REDDI report (Report Every Drunk Driver Immediately). At least two witnesses are quoted in the report saying David North was driving in a way that was endangering other motorists.
One witness reported that he was “playing chicken” with oncoming vehicles.
During the high-speed chase that ensued, Rooks rammed his patrol car into North’s vehicle because he said he felt it was the only way to protect other motorists and to prevent North from entering the town of Fraser.
It’s not clear what caused North’s alleged erratic driving. The day after the incident Dawn North told the Rocky Mountain News that her son is schizophrenic and was off his medication because it is expensive and, without medical insurance, he couldn’t afford it.
According to the report, after the two vehicles came to a rest, North immediately went to the back of Rooks’ patrol car “flailing his arms” as Rooks exited his car.
Rooks ordered North to back up and “drew his handgun,” the report says. “He immediately felt something on top of his handgun. He did not see what was on his gun, but he assumed it was Mr. Dalgarn’s hand.”
The report goes on to say that the two struggled, with Rooks getting North on the ground only to have the suspect “pop” back up and knock him off balance onto the embankment where Rooks eventually felt compelled to shoot North as he tried to take away the deputy’s gun.
The report details Colorado case law regarding justifiable use of deadly force. It says that Rooks could, legally, have used such force earlier in the altercation.
“Although an attempt to disarm a police officer is considered deadly physical force, Deputy Rooks did not immediately respond with deadly physical force to control Mr. Dalgarn,” the report says. “After all else had failed, Deputy Rooks made the decision to fire his handgun at Mr. Dalgarn until Mr. Dalgarn stopped his attack. Deputy Rooks’ actions and use of deadly force were reasonable, necessary, and appropriate in these circumstances to defend himself.”
Dawn North, apparently aware of at least some aspects of the report, said she would prefer not comment further “at this point.”
The report says North continued to be “combative” even as emergency responders attempted to treat him at the scene.
“Come on just kill me. Finish it. Come on just shoot me again,” the report quotes North as saying as emergency personnel tried to treat his wounds.
Rooks had been reassigned to “light administrative tasks” as the investigation was conducted. He resumed his regular patrol duties on Tuesday.
” Drew Munro may be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19610 or email@example.com.