Park County sheriff: Shooting is ‘beyond comprehension’

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BAILEY, Colo. -- An emotional and upset Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener spoke for the first time since Wednesday's shooting left one of his deputies dead and two others injured after they attempted to serve an eviction notice.

"The fact that this incident happened is beyond comprehension," he said at a noon news conference Thursday.

Wegener said the three deputies -- Cpl. Nate Carrigan, Master Patrol Deputy Kolby Martin and Capt. Mark Hancock -- went to serve the eviction of Martin Wirth, 58, at 36 Iris Drive at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

As the deputies were about to make contact with Wirth, he came out on his deck, paused, then went back inside. The deputies followed Wirth inside the home and as they entered, Wirth fired at them with a rifle. The deputies, who had legal authority to enter the home, Wegener said, then returned fire.

Carrigan was pronounced dead at the scene. Martin was shot multiple times in the lower extremities and was airlifted with life-threatening injuries to St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood where he underwent surgery.

Wegener said Thursday that Martin was still in serious condition, but "he is up and around."

Hancock was grazed in the ear and was transported by ambulance with nonlife-threatening injures. He was released Wednesday afternoon.

Wirth was pronounced dead at the scene.

The sheriff's office said it tried to evict Wirth in 2014, but that there was a peaceful resolution and he was allowed to move back into the home because of a legal loophole.

The latest eviction notice was posted on Feb. 16, and Wegener said there was an incident between Wirth and Jefferson County deputies several weeks ago.

Because of the previous contact between Wirth and law enforcement, Wednesday's eviction was categorized by the sheriff's office as "high risk" and there was a high level of concern about the eviction.

"In my history, when we talk about a high-risk eviction, it's usually I need more help moving stuff out of the building," Wegener said. "This was simply an eviction. We're simply there to do our job, to have the folks move out of the residence. It was not a tactical operation."

Wegener said the sheriff's office did not provoke the violence, that it was all initiated by Wirth.

"We're ingrained in the community," Wegener said of the sheriff's office. "To me, this is a slap in the face not only to the office but to the entire community.

"This is one of those things that should not have happened."

Wegener said in lieu of flowers for Carrigan, funds are being requested for a scholarship fund through Bank of the West.

"He meant a lot to our community," he said of Carrigan, who joined the sheriff's office in 2013. "Nate was one of my kids.

"I don't like to think about the fact that he's gone."

Platte Canyon High School, where Carrigan graduated in 1999 and went on to serve as a baseball coach and football coach, released a statement on its website Thursday:

Dear Platte Canyon Parents and Families, yesterday was a very difficult day for our community. Nate Carrigan was a valued member of our school community and staff. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with the families of Corporal Carrigan and Captain Hancock during this difficult time. Please be assured that our schools are prepared to support your student with grief counseling and grief support. Beginning today we will have additional staff available at each school. Please see the "For Parents" section above for grief and loss resources.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, issued a statement on Carrigan's passing:

"For the sixth time since becoming Colorado’s Attorney General, and for the second time already this year, I am faced with honoring a Colorado law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty... I am both saddened and appalled by the continued violence against those whose duty it is to serve and protect all Coloradans.

"Today, my thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Park County Sheriff’s deputy Corporal Nate Carrigan, as well as the two deputies injured in Wednesday’s senseless attack... I encourage every Coloradan to take a moment today to remember Corporal Carrigan’s sacrifice, and to thank a member of Colorado’s law enforcement community for the difficult work they do every day to make our communities a safer place to live."

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