Deputy involved in gun incident

Sidearm grabbed instead of Taser, then fired during pursuit of suspect

A Montezuma County Sheriff’s Deputy has been cleared of charges after being placed on administrative leave following an incident when she grabbed her gun instead of her Taser, then discharged her sidearm during the pursuit of an armed suspect.

There were no injuries or property damage reported as a result of the incident. It is not uncommon for law officers to be placed on leave during officer-involved shooting investigations.

On March 7, Deputy Patrisha McEachern, 41, was asked to assist Cortez Police officers in locating 27-year-old Matthew Dwayne Jaramillo, a person of interest in a shooting of Wilson Ben Jones Jr. in Towaoc that morning. There was no information on Jones’ conditon before deadline Friday.

Further, according to a report by Cortez Police Department Sergeant Matt Cashner, officers were advised the suspect had an active federal warrant, was on parole, could be on drugs and had a prior charge of using a firearm in crimes against officers.

The suspect was later located near the Texaco station at 302 West Main St.. According to Cashner’s report. Jaramillo allegedly fled on foot and threw a glass bottle toward McEachern’s vehicle as she drove after him.

Cashner reported hearing a “pop” sound while he was in foot pursuit of the suspect, but did not know where it had originated.

After unsuccessful attempts to Taser the suspect and corner him between vehicles, Jaramillo was tackled and handcuffed in the area of Montezuma Ave. and Pinon Drive, at which point he reportedly said, “It is in my front pocket.”

In his report, Cashner said he found a loaded .45 caliber Taurus semi-automatic handgun with the serial number scratched off in Jaramillo’s front pocket. Jaramillo was taken into custody.

After the incident, McEachern reportedly told Cashner she thought she had her Taser, but she had mistakenly grabbed her gun instead. She also said she thought the suspect had a gun in his hand at the time.

The investigation of the deputy shooting was turned over to the local DA’s office, who found no criminal wrongdoing on behalf of the deputy.

Jaramillo was charged with resisting arrest and obstruction of a peace officer. Charges of unlawful possession of a weapon by a previous offender, unlawful carrying of a concealed weapon and defaced firearm possession were dismissed by the 22nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office. District Attorney Russell Wasley said the firearms charges were dismissed because they are expected to be taken up under federal juristiction.

Jaramillo has not been charged in connection to the shooting in Towaoc, which is still under federal investigation. He remains in federal custody in La Plata County.

According to Lt. Ted Meador of the sheriff’s office, the discharge of McEachern’s weapon during Jarramillo’s arrest was investigated immediately by members of the Southwest Colorado Officer Involved Investigations Team. Formed this year to investigate such incidents, the team is comprised of officers from the Montezuma County Sheriff’s office, Cortez Police Department and Colorado Bureau of Investigations.

Meador said it was determined the round from the deputy’s weapon struck the pavement and the slug was recovered in the street approximately a block and a half away. It did not appear to have struck any private property, he said.

The deputy has been with the local sheriff’s office since March of 2011, he said.

The incident was not immediately reported to the Journal, something Meador attributed to an oversight. He said the Cortez Police Department was expected to issue a news release on the incident because it was within the city limits.

There were two officer-involved shootings in Cortez last year. On Sept. 13, 2011, Cortez Police Sgt. Larry Henson fired two shots at the tire of a vehicle that brushed against him while fleeing the Wendy’s parking lot. The driver, 37-year-old Leslie Rutland was arrested after a short pursuit and later convicted of DUI and 3rd degree assault.

Henson’s shots were later ruled justified by a panel consisting of CPD Sgt. Gary Gatzke, CPD Officer Dave Allmon and retired CPD detective Jim Bob Wynes.

In the early hours of March 19 of last year, Zachary Sullivan was shot multiple times by former CPD officer Dallas Coker and MCSO deputy Patrick Spencer after allegedly pulling a gun on the officers. The shooting was investigated by CBI and ruled justified by the local DA’s office. Sullivan — who recovered from the shots — was charged with attempted murder.

Sullivan’s case is set for trial April 30.

Reach Reid Wright at reidw@cortezjournal.com