Use of Red Flag Law and Amber Alert System Questioned by Agency Critics
To start the year, Teller County experienced a tragedy that struck the heart strings of many in the community. Moreover, it ignited a call for changes in the way suspected foul play or possible murder/suicide incidents are handled by law officers.
This occurred when it was reported that a 53-year-old Florissant resident, William Brueche, killed his five-year-old son, Liam Brueche, before taking his own life. This marked the second murder/suicide incident to strike the Florissant area within a month period.
After the Jan 4 incident, rumors exploded on social media, with some reports alleging that the sheriff’s office should have done more to protect the child. And like so many law enforcement offices in Colorado, the agency came under fire for what some critics described as not implementing the Red Flag law properly. This law can allow law enforcement agencies to initiate action to take firearms away from those suspected of having serious mental health problems.
The comments even prompted Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell to defend his deputies and the way his office responded to the incident. He addressed the public during an earlier Teller County commissioners meeting, highlighted more by key officials taking the oath of office.
Mikesell described the killings as an unfortunate tragedy, but at the same time, he heavily took verbal aim at the reams of criticism his office received. Mikesell suggested that these reports bordered on outright lies, and that their office sought to protect the interests of the victim’s family. He advised residents to not rely on social media reports for accurate information regarding these types of incidents.
Setting the Record Straight
Last week, the sheriff’s office took another step forward in setting the record straight by posting more information regarding the incident. In detail, these reports described why the sheriff’s office handled the murder-suicide the way it did. The office mainly addressed questions they have received asking why the sheriff’s office did not issue an amber alert for the child after finding out that he was missing.
The sheriff’s office started by explaining the event in detail. According to the post, the office first received a call around 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 4 saying that an exchange of custody with the child’s mother, slated to take place at 6 p.m. at the sheriff’s office’s parking lot that night, never occurred.
The mother reported that she received a text message from the father, saying that he was having car trouble and that he would be late for the exchange. “This exchange was not monitored by the Teller County Sheriff’s Office or required to be monitored,” the post stated. “The courts authorize this child custody exchange to happen often at our office and mostly without our knowledge. There were no current protection orders or cases that would identify this case to involve our officers.”
About 25 minutes after receiving the call, deputies went to the father’s house to locate him to “check the welfare of the child” while they were still under the belief that the father had vehicle problems. The deputies then checked the father’s residence several times throughout the night, as they had no information about his location or where he would be traveling.
“The Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s requirements for an Amber Alert to be issued requires that a child abduction has occurred and that the child be in immediate danger,” the sheriff’s office reported. “At the time of the report by the mother, the father had stated vehicle problems only and we had no reason believe that there was a threat to the child, nor had any domestic violence incident occurred.”
The vehicle was then found the next day with both the father and son deceased inside of it. The sheriff’s office said that video surveillance footage showed the vehicle arriving at the site in Florissant at 6:22 p.m. on Jan. 4 and the estimated time of deaths were shortly after the time the vehicle arrived.
The sheriff’s office’s post also said that many have questioned why the sheriff’s office did not utilize the Red Flag law to attempt to remove firearms from the father who had a criminal history. This law authorizes the removal of firearms from individuals suspected of having mental health problems.
In the wake of more gun-related shootings in Colorado, state leaders, including Governor Jared Polis, have indicated that law is not being implemented enough by law enforcement agencies.
“While the father was a convicted felon a firearm was not used during the incident nor were any firearms found in the vehicle or residence when search warrants were executed,” the post reported. “The suspect utilized a compressed air rifle during the incident. By statue compressed air rifles are not considered a firearm and may be purchased online or at a local retailer without state or federal background checks. The Colorado Red Flag law pertains only to firearms.”
The sheriff’s office then said that they wish they could have done something to stop the tragedy from happening, but the deputies had no indication from the information that was given to them that the father would have committed murder and suicide. And, based on the timeline of events, the incident had already occurred before the call was received by the sheriff’s office.
“The Teller County Sheriff’s Office expresses our deepest sympathy to the family, we would ask that the public respect the family and give them privacy to grieve,” the post continued. “Not only family and friends but also our first responders. As the Teller County Sheriff, I am proud of all these deputies, and our first responders for the job they do on a daily basis. Any conjectures, misleading statements, or false information on social media that are publicized and discussed without a factual basis from all those involved are inappropriate and unnecessary.”