Woodland Officers Involved In Shooting Return To Work

Photo by CR Chambers

by Rick Langenberg:





Two Woodland Park Police officers, who were involved in a recent traffic stop and subsequent fatal shooting, are back at work.

However, law enforcement authorities, say it could be weeks before a final report is issued by the Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s Office regarding the Jan. 22 incident that shut down Hwy. 24. Craig Bondo, 20, of Colorado Springs was killed after multiple shots were fired, when he reportedly struck an officer with a stolen car and tried to flee the scene.

Late last week, Lee Richards, the public information officer for the District Attorney’s Office, reported no new developments and reiterated that their office is still investigating the case.

The DA’s office will be examining if any laws were broken pertaining to how the shooting occurred, according to WP Police Chief Bob Larson. A subsequent internal inquiry will then be conducted by the police department. “What we plan to do is see if our policies were followed correctly,” said Larson. At the same time, he said the police may examine if any changes should be made regarding how these cases are handled in the future.

According to preliminary reports, Bondo was shot by a police officer after he attempted to flee the arrest scene with a stolen car, when police tried to detain him. Bondo was originally stopped on U.S. Hwy. 24, near the Wal-Mart store around 2:30 p.m on Jan. 22.

Authorities have declined to release any specifics regarding the incident that has already generated mixed opinions.

The two policemen involved in the case, officers Andy Leibbrand and Christopher Moller, have returned to work with the Woodland Park Police Department, according to Larson. Leibbrand, who didn’t fire any shots but was involved in the stop, can resume regular patrol duties. Meanwhile, Moller will be restricted to administrative work and won’t be performing any street-related patrols, pending the results of the investigation.

Authorities say both officers have good credentials. Moller, who originally worked as a police officer in Illinois for a town of a similar size to Woodland Park, has been employed with the WP department since 2008. In the summer of 2011, Moller became a member of the Teller County Emergency Response Team (ERT), commonly known as the SWAT team. Select members of the Woodland Park Police Department participate in the ERT activities, headed by Commander Les Lewis of the Teller County Sheriff’s Department. The training requirements for participating with this unit, which trains regularly and even competes in national competitions, are quite rigorous.

Leibbrand began his career with the WP Police force in July 2011.
According to Larson, the police is following routine procures in handling these types of cases. He said that whenever an officer has to use deadly force in responding to a case, or if a person is severely injured during a specific incident, an inquiry is conducted by the DA’s office. “It is good we have these resources,” said Larson. In addition, the police chief stated that the agency planned to make available any counseling to the officers involved. The loss of life while performing law enforcement duties can weigh heavily on police personnel, especially for a small department like Woodland Park, according to officials. According to Larson, both officers took some time off before they returned to work.

Larson stressed that officer-related shootings are extremely rare in Woodland Park. The last fatal officer shooting involved an armed robbery attempt at the City Market pharmacy in the Gold Hill Square Shopping Center in September 2007. Jennifer Freis, the shooting victim, was killed when she reportedly refused to surrender her weapon and threatened a police officer. The WP Police was cleared of any wrongdoing and the main responding officer was honored during a ceremony held in the WP City Council Chambers. The DA’s office concluded that if the officer didn’t take the action he did, more people may have died or been injured.

Prior to that, Larson stated that an undercover WP officer was involved in a shooting during a drug bust in Colorado Springs. That one didn’t involve any fatalities. Another police officer was involved in a fatal chase with a motorcyclist, who died in a subsequent crash in the Ute Pass area in the early 1990s.