Shooting victim Thomas Villanueva demands public records hidden by coroner

Colorado Springs Independent: Thomas Villanueva, the innocent bystander gravely wounded in a Feb. 5 shootout in which El Paso County Sheriff’s Deputy Micah Flick was killed, staged a protest with family members and friends on Aug. 15 outside the El Paso County Coroner’s Office.

Coroner Robert Bux has petitioned the 4th Judicial District Court to keep autopsy reports of Flick and an auto theft suspect that Flick and other officers were attempting to arrest, Manuel Zetina, closed from the public. (Zetina was also killed in the shootout, and three officers were injured.) Bux cited grief of Flick’s family as the reason for his petition, along with an ongoing investigation. The Independent, the Gazette and other media have opposed the petition, for which a hearing has been set for Aug. 24.

“Public records — that’s what they are, public,” Tom Villanueva, Thomas’ father, said. “What’s going on? We don’t know. But we need answers.”

The Indy published an exhaustive investigative report about the shooting on June 20, quoting officers and witnesses who said the task force that attempted to arrest Zetina gave no verbal warnings they were cops, didn’t have badges or police insignia showing and didn’t have their guns drawn. Thomas Villanueva was caught in the crossfire in the parking lot of Murray Hill Apartments as he walked back to his apartment at Galley Road and Murray Boulevard from eating at a restaurant across the street.

Tom Villanueva questioned whether proper protocols were followed and whether officers had the proper training for what turned out to be a botched operation, which involved the Colorado Springs Police Department, El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and State Patrol.

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