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Family of deputy killed in ambush: Red-flag gun bill will save lives

Author: Joey Bunch - May 5, 2018 - Updated: May 5, 2018

Zackari ParrishCraig Silber walks with his son James Silber, 7, and their dog Boston as officers on motorcycles wait for the end of the funeral procession for Douglas County Deputy Sheriff Zackari Parrish on Jan. 5 in Highlands Ranch. (Photo by Dougal Brownlie/The Colorado Springs Gazette).

The family of a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy killed in an ambush in December spoke with Denver radio station 710 KNUS’ Craig Silverman Saturday about the imperiled bill to at least temporarily disarm people who are mentally ill or who are thought to be a threat to themselves or others.

The Zackari Parrish III Violence Protection Act passed the Democratic-held Colorado House of Representatives Friday night over mostly Republican opposition.

Senate Republicans have signaled they will kill the bill when it reaches upper chamber next week over Second Amendment concerns. Opponents see the bill as an excuse to take away people’s guns on a judgment call by law enforcement, prospectors or the courts.

Some have vilified two Republicans leading the fight for the law — House Assistant Minority Leader Cole Wist of Centennial and Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, who is running for state attorney general.

The red-flag issue is dividing the Republican party nationally, as well.

On Friday President Donald Trump told a Dallas convention of the National Rifle Association that more attention must be paid to red flags — signals a person might intend harm to themselves or others, citing the mass shooter at a Parkland, Florida, high school in February.

“There has never been a case where more red flags have been shown,” Trump said of the school shooting that took 17 lives. “Law-abiding gun owners want to keep firearms out of the hands of those who pose a danger to themselves and to others. We all want that. We all want that.”

Gracie Parrish told Silverman Saturday that she thinks the colleagues of her late husband support House Bill 1436. She said her husband was a Second Amendment supporter, as well.

“I want to believe that Zack’s best friends in law enforcement would have the like-mindedness of Zack, that they would support this law, because it could prevent their death,” she told Silverman.

Her husband’s killer, Matthew Riehl, a lawyer and Iraq war veteran, had mental health issues known to authorities. He had made threats against law enforcement officers, who were prevented by law from taking his guns before he lured Parrish and other officers into an ambush at his Highlands Ranch apartment complex on Dec. 31. Four other officers and two civilians were wounded; Riehl also was killed.

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock told Silverman that he, too, thinks most law enforcement officers support the likely doomed bill.

“We know that from the County Sheriffs of Colorado (organization),” he told Silverman. “The County Sheriffs of Colorado supports this. The Colorado Chiefs of Police have come out, and they support this bill. The majority of officers that do the work day and night support this bill, because they deal with folks who are mentally ill on a regular basis.”

Parrish father, Zack Parrish Jr., said on the KNUS program that he is a Republican and a member of the NRA. He said the bill doesn’t take gun rights away from anyone, but holds the weapons until a person’s mental state is evaluated.

“We’re trying to help someone with a mental health issue, to help them protect themselves but also protect the citizens, their families and people like my son,” Parrish told Silverman.

He characterized the argument of mission creep as a false flag political device.

“I pray that the politicians and the NRA members who are coming out about this, it’s not about taking their rights away,” Parrish said.

He added, “I think people, like with everything in our country they don’t like, they don’t understand or read the bill, so they take pieces and parts and use them the way they want to use it in a political way. I think it’s an incorrect way of looking at this.”

Silverman called the legislation a “moment of testing for the people of Colorado.” He cited mass shootings by people who were known to authorities as people with mental illness who might pose a threat, but nothing was done to make sure they didn’t have weapons.

“We have to protect our law enforcement officers and when guns are in the hands of mentally deranged people, they need all the tools,” the former prosecutor said.

The full interview can be heard by clicking here.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.