Former Denver officer who tracked down man who shot him in ’71: ‘Persistence does pay off’

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DENVER (KDVR) — A Colorado fugitive appeared in a New Mexico court Thursday, 46 years after escaping from custody. Luis Archuleta, 77, was arrested on Wednesday in Española, New Mexico. He has been wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation since 1977 on a charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution or confinement.

Archuleta, who also went by Larry Pusateri and other names, was convicted of shooting Denver Police Department Officer Daril Cinquanta on Oct. 3, 1971 in north Denver’s Sunnyside neighborhood. According to an arrest affidavit, Cinquanta was shot in the stomach. Cinquanta survived, tracked Archuleta down and tipped off the FBI about where he had been hiding under a fake name for 46 years.

“It was kind of like a hobby. I was cold calling people and bad guys, I went to their homes, I went to their families, and most of the reception was not warm. I’m not real popular with the bad guys’ families. On June 24, I get a call: ‘I’ve thought about it, I’m going to tell you where he’s at,’ and this person handed him to me on a platter,” Cinquanta said.

Cinquanta was a rookie officer when he tried to stop Archuleta.

“He looked like a bad actor. I confronted him. He put his arm back and he was pulling a gun. I lost that battle,” he said.

Cinquanta survived being shot once in the abdomen.

“Back in those days, we didn’t have bullet-proof vests and our radios did not come out of our cars, so I had to crawl to the car and get in the car to call for help,” he said.

The gunman was convicted and sentenced to nine to 14 years in prison. In 1974, he escaped from a state hospital in Pueblo while he was a prisoner in the Colorado Department of Corrections. He was even featured on “America’s Most Wanted” in 2009 and 2010.

“They were met by guns, an accomplice with guns and a getaway vehicle and away they go. He’s been wanted 46 years for that and I’ve been working on him 46 years and I found him!” Cinquanta said.

When asked how it makes him feel to have Archuleta behind bars again, Cinquanta said, “Oh, wonderful! I’ve gotten calls from all over from policemen and stuff who thinks it’s phenomenal.”

Cinquanta is thankful for the teamwork of all the agencies involved.

“This arrest should send a clear signal to violent offenders everywhere: The FBI will find you, no matter how long it takes or how far you run, and we will bring you to justice,” said Michael Schneider, the special agent in charge at the FBI’s Denver office. “I want to thank the Española Police Department for working closely with the FBI Denver and Albuquerque Divisions on this investigation and getting this dangerous fugitive off the streets.”

Cinquanta retired from DPD in 1990. He said he never gave up finding the man who tried to kill him.

“I have never given up on him. It just shows you: persistence does pay off. I worked with a lot of super cops at the Denver Police Department, that was a period of time when there were great policemen, great cooperation throughout the state with all the police departments, a phenomenal time to be a cop,” he said.

He started a private investigation firm called “Professional Investigators” and has written a book about his time on the job, called “The Blue Chameleon.”

He said, “It’s got this incident in it. I wonder if they’re going to let me put an extra chapter in.”

Archuleta will be brought back to Colorado and could face additional charges for his escape.

“He escaped from there and took a hostage. That’s kidnapping. And he had a weapon. There’s a lot they could charge him with. Let’s hope they do that,” Cinquanta said.

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