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DPD says finding escaped inmate is ‘top priority’

DENVER -- The Denver Police Department says the search for a dangerous inmate on the run, is their top priority. FOX 31 has new information about the moments leading up to a deadly officer-involved shooting with ties to that fugitive.

“He’s a very dangerous individual. It’s our top priority. The community is not safe with him out there,” Barb Archer, Denver Police Commander of the Major Crimes Division, said.

Fugitive, Mauricio Venzor-Gonzales has been on the run since Monday morning when he escaped custody during a transport to Denver Health.

On Monday night, Denver police were conducting surveillance near Colorado Boulevard and East 40th Avenue on his known associates.

Officers noticed an SUV circling the block. In a media-briefing on Thursday, Archer said officers believed Venzor-Gonzales was in the passenger seat.

The SUV sped off and there was a short high-speed chase that came to a stop at East 41st Avenue and Albion Street.

Archer said officers gave repeated commands for the suspects to show their hands. Police then saw the men searching for something inside the stolen car.

Officers thought that might be a weapon. Archer said three officers fired their weapons.

The two men inside the car were later identified as Steven Nguyen and Rafael Landeros. Nguyen was killed. Landeros has active warrants out of Adams County. DPD said the department stands behind the actions of the officers.

“The officers were acting on information provided to them that Venzor-Gonzales was in the passenger seat. They believed that to be him. Their actions were based on that belief and based on his criminal history past of being an attempted murderer – that justifies their actions,” Archer said.

Archer said officers found a loaded handgun in the stolen car. She also said Landeros has been an associate of Venzor-Gonzales for several years. Investigators now plan to press him for answers.

The District Attorney’s Office is investigating the officer-involved shooting. For the time being, Archer said the three officers involved are no longer on patrol assignment.