DENVER -- George Brauchler, the 18th Judicial district attorney, said Douglas County investigators asked his office to pursue charges against Matthew Riehl a little more than three weeks before he opened fire at a Highlands Ranch apartment complex on New Year's Eve.
In November, Riehl was pulled over in a seemingly routine traffic stop for speeding by a Lone Tree police officer.
After the traffic stop, Riehl began posting videos on YouTube claiming the stop was illegal.
The videos are full of vulgar language questioning the integrity of the office, claiming the officer is a “Nazi” and calling for his firing.
According to reports, Riehl also emailed the city of Lone Tree 15 times with similar remarks and directed three emails to the officer.
“Van Den Berg of @cityoflonetree signs his 0416 with a 'DSS' that look eerily similar to a swastika in the middle. An old SS tropper’s trick. Fire him now and throw out his illegal bonds now,” one email said, in part.
He also wrote directly to the officer.
“I should have your job," Riehl wrote. I’m smarter than you. I’m better qualified. I have combat proven medical training and I’ve practiced in Federal court. You are a fumbling lying perjuring buffoon. I want your stripes and your pension. I want your house. But you can keep your wife and the dog if you have one.”
On Dec. 5, an investigator from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office submitted two reports of the interactions to the senior deputy district attorney for the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office.
Over the course of the reports, investigators suggest Riehl be charged with harassment, intimidating a witness or publishing law enforcement personal information on the internet.
The next week the investigator sent an email to the DA’s office asking for an update.
“I’m needing that documentation of your assessment of the Matthew Riehl situation," according to the email. "Some of the bosses both here and at Lone Tree are anxious to get that report.”
On Dec. 14, the DA’s office responded saying, in part, “Given our review of the reports, we do not believe that charges are appropriate at this time.”
“In that information that we have, there just isn’t a crime that we can prosecute,” Brauchler said. “What those [emails] looked like to me was a disgruntled citizen. They were critical. They may have even been borderline offensive in some of their criticism but that’s what public officials get.”
According to Brauchler, none of Riehl’s rhetoric even skirted the line of harassment.
“I have a folder in my office of people who send hate mail. Some repeatedly,” he said. “And we rarely, I can’t think of a time that we have ever moved forward with a prosecution simply because under the First Amendment you get to have those kind of hard conversations with people.”
Brauchler was asked if he regrets not charging Riehl with any crimes.
“I regret not having the tools to charge him,” he said.
According to Brauchler, even the most severe charge of harassment likely would have done little to prevent the New Year’s Eve tragedy.
Harassment is a Class 3 misdemeanor, which he says typically does not result in an arrest, but instead a summons to appear in court.
“I do not believe it would have kept him in jail. I do not believe it would have been a vehicle to get the weapons out of his apartment and long term I don’t think it would have kept an evil guy dealing with mental illness form acting on that evil,” Brauchler said.