Red Flag Law Used Against Police Officer Involved in a Fatal Shooting

On July 1, 2017, Colorado man, Jeremy Holmes committed what investigators described as “suicide by cop.” According to police, they encountered Holmes and found that he was armed with a knife. Holmes was instructed to drop the knife over 30 times over a period of two minutes, and in the audio from over the officer’s body cameras- Holmes is heard demanding that the police shoot him where he stood.

Officer Phillip Morris started to return his gun to his holster so that he could incapacitate Holmes using a stun gun. It was at that moment when Holmes charged at Morris, forcing Morris and officer Erin Mast to shoot and kill him. Holmes died on the scene. He was 19 years old.

Both officers were later exonerated of any wrongdoing as the body camera audio and video showed that Holmes had forced the officers to use deadly force by charging at Morris with a knife. According to the Colorado State University Police Department, Morris was not disciplined as the camera footage, the available forensic evidence, Morris’ testimony, and that of officer Mast all clearly show that the officers were in the right when they fired on Holmes.

On January 1, 2020, the State of Colorado put into effect a red flag law which makes it possible for a legal gun owner to have his or her guns confiscated on the strength of an anonymous tip from the public.

According to local reporters at 9News, “Susan Holmes filed an extreme risk protection order (ERPO) petition against Cpl. Philip Morris in Larimer County on Jan. 9.”

In this version of the red flag law, as explained by 9News, “[…] a family member, cohabitant or law enforcement officer can submit an extreme risk protection order petition if a person can be considered to be a threat to themselves or others. A judge will then rule on the petition.”

In keeping with the spirit of these wholly un-American red flag laws, the hearing can be held without the person of interest’s knowledge- leaving out any possibility of confronting their accusers or preparing a defense. The order to confiscate the weapons can be given without due process. It is then up to the person of interest to prove that they are not a threat and apply to have their weapons returned, which can be costly and time-consuming.

It is not surprising that this law would be used by the vengeful family member of someone killed by a police officer. Still, this case is a prime example of how a person can be acting according to the expectations of their employer and within the law and still fall victim to red flag laws.

Colorado House Minority Leader Rep. Patrick Neville released a statement on Tuesday saying that this case shows the bill was “badly written.” He followed this with the following tweet, “We predicted this and said a falsely accused person has no recourse other than hoping a DA files charges. No recourse to recoup lost wages or reputation. One example of many about how this bill was so horribly written.”

On Wednesday, Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said he would not authorize the service of the petition to officer Morris.

If Morris were a private citizen, he would almost certainly lose his right to bear arms. These laws are patently unconstitutional. They violate due process, which is a cornerstone of our justice system- and a foundational right of every American citizen.

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11 Responses

  1. Since I was unable to see the body camera videos; I cannot determine the real threat the knife was. Was it a 9 inch fixed blade knife or was it an under 4 inch pocket knife. The issue here is the real threat. I have been through many “shoot / don’t shoot” classes and testing, as a hunter safety instructor for many years, that tests your ability to make a life and death decision in a split second period of time. Were these police officers properly trained and tested in these skills before being assigned a firearm as a policeman that could be required to make that “shoot / don’t shoot” decision. The other issue is were both of these officers at immediate risk since both officers discharged their firearms. Now the large question is since both officers supposedly had tasers; why did both of them not discharge their tasers on the threatening individual before the individual was within a threating distance. Putting these issues out to the media before these questions I have presented herein are contemplated by officials; is dangerous.

    1. You missed the point of the article.

      It was not about right or wrong police force.

      It was about how anyone can now use the red flag laws to ruin other lives without having to put any skin in the game and offering unconstitutional results to the accused, with first and foremost not having the constitutional right to face one’s accuser.

  2. It was a good sized knife, no I have not measured it, but you can be killed by a 1″ blade, if it is used in the right place. Since most “self defense” laws are written that to defend yourself or others, and one officer was attacked with a weapon, both officers had the right, and DUTY to stop the threat.

  3. I saw the video a while back and I believe the officer was at risk, As for the other officer also shooting , what was he supposed to do?….Should he wait and see if his partner is stabbed or not?…The guy wanted to die and he got his wish only after he forced the officers hand.

  4. She could do that to just sue him in civil court for wrongful death ( cop should have pulled his taser first).
    AFA the RFL, it’s the same as a domestic violence injunction or a Baker Act, action. They are ex parte, as well. Btw it’s not true that it can be from an anonymous tip. It has to be from:
    Co-workers in Cali
    Health care workers in Maryland
    The cops In Florida and Indiana

  5. Arguments after the fact are pointless! The shooting was investigated and the the event was recorded on video! To second guess the action of officers in harms way from an individual who wanted death is useless! The officers had seconds to act in order to save their own lives!

  6. @Paul Martin Mrozinsky

    These situations are not battles of ‘equal’ force. Police are not going to suddenly whip out their knife of equal length against a person with a knife and swashbuckle with them or or their batons against someone with a baseball bat about to crack someone’s skull. It’s not about that. It’s not about shooting to mame. It’s about ‘stopping the threat’ and you’d have known that had you all of the training that you stated. And that doesn’t mean shoot one bullet and then wait to assess if another is needed either. It’s firing until the threat stops. That doesn’t mean shoot to kill. It means what it says; shoot until the threat has stopped and when in quick situations that last in only micro seconds, that sometimes means fast shooting and a person loosing their life. It also means that shooting to stop the threat may or may not result in the death of an aggressor. Anyone in that type of situation is concerned with stopping the threat; not counting rounds fired. You sitting in your classes is not the same as in a real world situation. I myself speak from life-long experiences of class
    instruction and field training in virtually every conceivable type of military and police-styled training and can testify that absolutely NONE of that lifelong training I’ve had will EVER be the same as a real-world event. EVER. Yes, it helps to prepare me, but it will never be the same as facing an actual threat. It’s one thing to armchair and quarterback from behind a keyboard or as a court witness
    having all the time in the world to assess terrible, quick life and death situations from their own jury chair while quite another to actually be on the field and engaged. Shooting someone resulting in their death is a drama people and police will carry with them to their grave. I am not siding with
    either party in this case and I’m not a thin blue line backer, because their current model certainly does require an overhauling, but I’m not against them either. There’s good and evil everywhere. Goodness begins at home and from birth with families that are together and raise children with morals while policing not only requires recruits from those backgrounds, but also models in place that will eventually SOMEHOW remove personal bias, emotional anger, attitude and other human negative bad qualities from the equation so that police act virtually all the time within moral rightness. I don’t know that’s possible, but as I stated, at the very least the police model needs to be addressed with those considerations in mind. Society is far from those necessities and I don’t know that it can or will ever get there, but until then, all we have is the legal system to attempt to keep
    society rational while the armchair quarterbacks allow that system to work those things out.

  7. I find it somewhat humorous that the armchair quarterback has so many opinions/ideas. have you ever been in this situation? and I don’t mean a “class” where you know you are completely safe. try the real world. then come back to me (if you are still alive), and opine on what should/shoouldnot be done. you have nano seconds to react. you cannot afford to give the perp a chance to kill you, your partner, or an innocent by stander. this instance, that kid was hell bent on dying that day and he did. nothing could have changed that scenario. momma looks like she is clueless, and perhaps this is why the young man did what he did? any history of depression? too much/little parental input? we will never know. I am just glad that cop made it home that day. these men and women who protect us law abiding citizens deserve more than our derision. can you imagine what this world will be like if all the crazies actually get their wish to defund/abolish the police? total anarchy. we are close to that now. point in case: the “motherly” 16 year old who tried to kill another girl with a fairly large blade. she intended to kill that girl, no question. lies out there such as she herself called 911. yeah, right. the perp calls 911 to report her own crime? she was a fairly large girl, and swung that blade like a pro. momma will be a millionaire, ala George Floyd, and angelic girl will be another criminal martyr. such is life in the U.S. today. gotta get them new nikes and that 75 in t.v. tonite, just considered reparations.

  8. I don’t know about these “Red Flag” laws, but feel that a person named should have the right to know the accusers name and the accuser should be open to law suits.

  9. This is just one reason why this Red Flag Law is very bad for the country and that so-called Red Flag Law should be eliminated. Law Biding Citizens, as well as Law enforcement, should not be targeted by these Anti-Americans Nazis that want to destroy our Constitutional and our rights.

  10. Red flag states include a small band of ignorant, tyrannical governors shoving the U.S. to the brink of catastrophe. Red flag laws were created to transfer authority from licensed psychiatrists to unqualified persons more obedient to democrats, e.g., local judges and nosy neighbors.

    Nobody wants criminals to have firearms but to be taken seriously, if the accused is a danger to himself (not against the law) or others, he should be legally arrested. In other words, take the man but leave the arms. Every state allows for the involuntary detention of dangerous individuals for psychiatric evaluation. The difference is red flag laws only confiscate arms, the obvious objective.

    Criminal prosecution of accusers for malice or lying makes good press but it’s very difficult to prosecute and virtually impossible to prove. Due process requires reports from two psychiatrists, one from each side, legal representation, arraignment, indictment and trial by jury. Public defenders offer little comfort to the accused.

    I’ve often wondered how the police, teacher, classmate or aunt would know the rightful owners of which firearms. Seems law enforcement would risk serious lawsuits if they err on that point. Currently, that point is being litigated in Lori Rodriguez v. City of San Jose, currently accepted by the Supreme Court for conference review. Also submitted for Supreme Court review are Pena v. Cid, Mance v. Barr, and Culp v. Madigan. However, the major cost of these laws is the loss of trust between peaceable, lawful citizens and their elected officials.

    Just for debate, I’ve wondered about the issue of an accused having firearms stored at another address. If they’re out of the city or state but easily accessible, the law is useless. Often, judges turn to the line of inheritance codified in state laws to determine the legal custodian of any property. Confiscation is anathema to the U.S. Constitution.

    As an analogy, if someone sips too much wine during dinner at home, a crotchety old aunt might be empowered to call the police and have them impound every motorized vehicle from the homeowner — just in case he or she might decide to drive somewhere. Never mind who owns the vehicles.

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