can you hear me? >> tonight, inside an attack. >> bleeding. >> where? >> in the chest. >> stay with me, stay with me. >> deputies called to a domestic dispute met with an ar-15 ambush. all caught on officer body cam. >> i look to my left, zach's down. my first thought is, my friend's down, i need to go get him. >> the split-second decisions. >> i'm hit! >> the bravery. >> we have one deputy down inside the apartment, all have been hit at least once. >> geared up, make another attempt to get zach out. >> we need fire up here now! >> and the sacrifice. "nightline," "ambush at copper
(sound of footsteps) (sound of car door opening) (car door closes) (sound of engine starting) this is "nightline." "ambush at copper canyon." with juju chang. >> good evening. thanks for joining us. tonight, for the first time we're hearing from a group of officers ambushed by a mentally unstable man armed with an ar-15. it seems so often these days
body cam footage is used to scrutinize police behavior. but what you're about to see is a heart-pounding, firsthand testament to the dangers of wearing a badge. and the loyalty of these men and women to their fellow officers. as they put their lives on the line to serve and protect. here's abc's clayton sandell. >> reporter: it's early morning on new year's eve, 2017. five officers from the douglas county sheriff's department. >> sheriff's office! >> reporter: responding to a 911 call. >> sheriff's office! >> reporter: from the copper canyon apartments in highlands ranch, colorado. >> [ bleep ]. >> reporter: waiting for them? 37-year-old army veteran matthew reel. >> matthew, come out! >> reporter: he has a history of mental health issues. >> matt, come out! matt, come out of the room now! >> reporter: and unknown to them, a loaded ar-15 rifle.
>> open the door! sheriff's office! [ gunfire ] >> shots fired, shots fired! >> my name's taylor davis. i just decided i wanted to do more for our community. >> my name is michael doyle. i know i can't change the world, but i can at least change my corner of it. >> jeff pelly. just something i wanted to do since i was little. hadn't thought about doing anything else. >> dave byer. i first got into law enforcement through the military police. i was 19 years old, thought it sounded like a good idea. >> reporter: their graveyard shift had started at 9:00 p.m.
on december 30th. it was a quiet night. >> i remember kind of looking forward to that night. you know. get in there, get it done. >> i personally had plans for a new year's eve party, let's just have a good shift, be safe. it was a slow night too, up until about 3:00 a.m. >> i don't know what's going on. >> this guy totally freaked out on me. he kept coming at me. i feared for my health and my safety. he was at me. >> what was your name? >> matthew. >> there was a hazard hit on the home saying that matthew riehl was a veteran with ptsd and possible access to weapons. >> so your radar's a little up at this point? >> yeah, pretty much. >> hello? >> hey, how are you? >> good. >> what's going on tonight?
>> well, my roommate freak the out on me. >> okay. >> came at me. i even put a laser on his face. >> okay. >> when i got on scene, zach and the other corporal who was on scene, they were talking to matthew riehl, it was fairly calm at that point. >> come out here with us. do you mind if i come in and talk with you, sir? >> no. >> is he on anything, any mental disabilities? >> not that i know of did you guys get in a physical altercation? >> no. >> okay. i'm going to get your name, sir, then i'm going to get out of here, okay? >> hang on. >> assault, assault, assault! >> we're here because we want to make sure you're okay. >> yeah, yeah, i know. >> are you okay? >> yeah, no, i'm fine. >> what's your first name? >> matthew. >> zach, good to meet you. >> zach immediately developed a decent rapport with him. zach's approach was very level
headed, very calm. >> how was it for you guys? >> we knew the roommate was going to work, matthew was going back to his room, we were going to move on to the next call and that was just it. >> happy new year! >> and yet, two hours later, what happens? >> we get another call back there. from what i understood from dispatch, matthew riehl was extremely agitated on the phone. >> caller's not being cooperative. >> he was irate, he was amped. he was nonsensical. >> so when zach and i arrived on scene, zach knocks on the door. a confrontation kind of ensues from inside the apartment with matthew riehl. >> matt, it's zach. matt, it's zach. >> he eventually opens the door. before he does that, he says? >> he said, i don't have any guns, i'm coming out. >> we can talk out here. >> and zach was like, okay, okay, open up the door, man, we just want to talk to you. >> are you okay? >> yeah -- >> the way zach was talking to him, he wasn't talking as an
authority figure at that point, he was just talking like somebody who wanted to truly help him out. >> well, i want to file a domestic restraining order, can you help me? >> yeah, i can. >> eventually we get to the point, i want a domestic restraining order. zach's like, we can help you out with that. and then -- i don't know, something switched. he just slammed the door in our face. >> i don't think there's anyone else in there. >> no. we're going to take him. >> for what? >> m1. >> mental health hold. law enforcement is authorized to place somebody on a 72-hour mental health hold involuntarily if they exhibit behaviors where they may be a danger to themselveses or others. when atmosphere the officers got on scene he was throwing things off his balcony, yelling and screaming, we were concerned for his safety. zach described his behavior as the most manic episode of ptsd he had seen. >> reporter: the team decides to remove riehl from his apartment fare his own safety.
>> when we were coming up with our plan for going into the apartment, does anyone have a shield? i have any shield. we set up how to approach the apartment, me in the front with the shield. zach was behind me with his gun out for lethal coverage. doyle was behind zach with his taser out for let's lethal. sergeant and pelly behind them. >> we go hands free, try to put him into custody. >> reporter: the officers enter the apartment to find matthew riehl has barricaded himself in his bedroom. they don't know he's holding a loaded rifle. >> he had not only barricaded the door but the entry hallway with large objects that were designed to hang us up. >> matthew, come out! >> zach whispered, let's go ahead and kick the door because he's not coming out. >> sheriff's office!
[ gunfire ] >> this was never like anything i ever imagined. >> probably a 30-round magazine that he dumped on us within a couple of seconds. >> i hear zach say, i'm shot, i'm bleeding out. >> i'm going, cover me, cover me! >> i look to my left, i see zach's down. my first thought is, my friend's down, i need to go get him. i started crawling. i grab his right boot. i just pulled as hard as i could. moved him two, three feet. that's when the next volley of rounds started coming out. [ gunfire ] >> it was very apparent by this time that it was clearly an ambush. >> that's when i got shot. >> i'm hit, i'm hit! >> the bullet entered just over my vest. just under my armpit. >> i saw the blood coming out my sleeves. okay, i got shot. but then my whole attention is on jeff at that point. >> it will be okay, it will be okay, stay with me, stay with me.
>> sarge started administering aid to me. i was administering aid to jeff. >> at that point, that's when i could tell, i'm not good. like, my lungs collapsed. i was gurgling blood. >> stay with us, you're all right, you're okay. >> we came under another barrage of gunfire. [ gunfire ] >> [ bleep ]. shooting out the window. >> get out of here! >> over here. >> you start thinking about taylor. you're looking around. she's not there. the last i saw, she went further into the apartment. >> where's taylor? >> she's inside. with him. >> [ bleep ]. >> i knew she was in the apartment by herself. outgunned. in a strange territory. >> reporter: when the shooting began, deputy davis was forced deeper inside the second-story apartment. >> i ran into the roommate's room looking for concealment, preparing myself to get into a gun battle at this point. once i was inside that bedroom, i saw a window.
so i broke the window and proceeded to jump out of it. >> i'm hit! i'm hit! >> what was it like for you guys to see her come around the corner? >> sarge shined his flashlight on taylor. and i could see the badge. and i'm like, oh, thank you. >> where's parrish? >> parrish is still in there. >> we have one deputy down inside the apartment. i'm not getting anything from him. all of us have been hit at least once. >> shots fired. three officers hit, one down. medical and s.w.a.t. on the way. >> parrish! >> reporter: when we come back -- >> the moment when you realize zach is inside and he's trapped, you felt practically helpless. >> reporter: ambushed, outgunned, under attack.
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"nightline," "ambush at copper canyon" continues. clayton sandell reporting. >> i need s.w.a.t. right now, i need medical! >> shots fired! >> just to confirm, three officers hit, is that correct? >> get out of here! >> reporter: sergeant byer and his team of sheriff's deputies under attack outside the apartment of 37-year-old matthew riehl.
all three of the deputies with him have been shot. >> i'm bleeding. chest. >> where on the chest? stay with me, pelle, stay with me. >> my tahoe was the closest. i ran to it, got it. >> get him over here! right in front of us. >> ready. one, two, three -- we gotcha. back seat of my truck. ready? one in the chest, one in the arm -- >> reporter: deputies deaf advice, pelle, and doyle taken to the hospital. meanwhile, sergeant beyer turns back to the apartment complex. >> i geared up. going to try to make another attempt to get zack out. >> reporter: his fourth deputy, zack parrish, is still inside gunman matthew riehl's apartment. >> there was a chance he was
still alive. for every minute that went by, his chances of survival decreased. >> let's put together a rescue team to get that deputy out. >> stacked up at the door, took a peek around the corner, came under heavy gunfire again. >> parrish, can you hear me? [ gunfire ] >> yeah, he's shooting. >> a s.w.a.t. team made entry in the front door. in the process of doing, so they engaged the suspect. he fired a number of rounds at our officers, hitting one of them. and we fired and killed him. >> reporter: the s.w.a.t. team recovers deputy parrish. but it's too late. >> so i came out of surgery.
i kept asking, you know, how's doyle? he's fine. how's taylor? she's fine. then kind of like asked about zack. then finally they told me. >> he was alone in that apartment. he died there alone. even though i know i would have been killed, at least he wouldn't have been alone if i would have stayed in there with him. that's what haunts me. not a day goes by that i don't replay what happened in my head. that i don't think about zack or gracie, his wife, and his two girls. >> i never thought that i would be at my husband's funeral with two sweet baby girls that would never truly get to know their father. the only way that i could think of was through writing a letter to him of just basically my
vows. >> i promise to raise our girls with the lord as my focus. i promise to raise them in a home that bleeds blue. >> zack was such an engaged father. he loved well, and he loved deeply. it's no secret that he loved christmas lights. three or four times a week we're getting in the car and looking at christmas lights. and i remember driving at one point and thinking, we've done this a lot. like it's as if we've packed a lifetime of looking at christmas lights into this month. and it came full circle on the 31st when i was able to go, we did. we really did. >> 1721, you are clear. thank you for your service and rest easy, sir, we have the watch from here. ♪ >> reporter: it's been just over four months since the shooting. and matthew riehl's history and possible motives are coming into focus. >> he had a beef with law
enforcement. >> we're learning more and more about matthew riehl, mostly from riehl himself, due to his extensive presence online. >> you know who's going to flub big-time next election? spurlock. he's a clown. >> how many firearms did he have? >> he had 11 firearms. >> reporter: sheriff tony spurlock is now on a mission to try and prevent something like this from happening again. >> i'd like to see colorado have an extreme risk protection order law that will give law enforcement and family members a tool to help save their loved ones. this is not an attack on the second amendment, it's people with a mental health crisis not being taken care of, and then having direct access to weapons.
>> would it have saved zack, do you think? >> i have to say it would have. i know for a fact that this guy would not have been able to buy the two rifles he used to shoot zack. >> reporter: for zack parrish's colleagues, the past months have been focused on regaining their lives as friends, family members, and in the memory of their fallen brother as officers. >> what do you guys want people to remember about zack? >> his good nature. >> yeah. >> he wanted to be that light that we could look to and have fun with and enjoy. >> zack is downright a hero, there's no other way about it. here's the poster child for who you want to hire as a police officer. >> he was all about helping people, which is this particularly cruel irony to the fact that he was trying to help this person on that night. >> uh-huh.
zack was the type of man who if you had told that team, someone is going to die tonight, zack would have said, i'm still going in there. i will put my life on the line. because he knew every single day, putting on that badge, he was putting his life on the line to help people. >> reporter: for "nightline," i'm clayton sandell in highlands ranch, colorado. be righ be right back. . but there's one... that blows them all out of the water. hydro boost water gel from neutrogena®. with hyaluronic acid it goes beneath the surface to plump skin cells from within and lock in hydration leaving skin so supple, it actually bounces back. the results will blow you away! hydro boost and our gentle exfoliating cleanser
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