A Colorado man who shot dead a gunman armed with an assault rifle but was then himself killed by police has been hailed as a hero.
The incident happened last Monday in Arvada, seven miles north-west of downtown Denver. Ronald Troyke, a 59-year-old man reportedly looking to kill law enforcement officers, used a shotgun to kill Officer Gordon Beesley.
Troyke then armed himself with an AR-15 and ran towards the town square. A bystander, John Hurley, 40, drew a handgun and shot Troyke dead.
Hurley picked up Troyke’s weapon. The Arvada police chief, Link Strate, said what happened next was “tragic”.
He said: “A responding Arvada officer encountered Mr Hurley, who was holding a rifle. And our officer shot him.”
Strate called Hurley “a true hero who likely disrupted what could have been a larger loss of life. Mr Hurley’s actions saved others from serious injury or death.”
Surveillance video released by police appears to back up that account but stops short of the shooting in which Hurley was killed.
In a statement, Hurley’s family said they were thankful for support from the city and police and were waiting for the outcome of a third-party investigation.
According to official accounts, police were alerted that Troyke might do “something crazy”. After the shootings, police said they had found a note.
“Today I will kill as many Arvada officers as I possibly can,” it read. “This is what you get, you are the people who are expendable … I just hope I don’t die without killing any of you pigs.”
The shooting came three months after 10 people including a police officer were killed at a grocery store in Boulder, about 20 miles from Arvada. Last month, a gunman shot dead seven people and himself in a mobile home in Colorado Springs.
Hurley’s death turned a spotlight on a saying popular among opponents of gun control legislation: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Pete Blair, executive director of a Texas State University group that trains police in how to engage active shooter situations, said assessing such scenarios can be difficult.
“You’re asking people to make split-second decisions about who’s a good guy and who’s a bad guy, and obviously mistakes happen,” Blair told told the Denver Post.
The Arvada mayor, Marc Williams, told Denver 7: “We’ll learn from others as to some things we ought to do, some things we maybe shouldn’t do.”