A 21-year-old man armed with a BB gun shot a Pueblo police officer twice — once in the head — early Wednesday. The officer then returned fire, killing the man.
The officer, who has not been identified, fired a reported eight shots, killing Edward Valdez III at the scene.
The officer, a two-year veteran of the force, also was shot in an elbow, Pueblo Police Chief Luis Velez said.
The officer has been treated and released from St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center. He is now on paid administrative leave.
The fatal shooting happened at 6:46 a.m. behind Toni and Joe’s Pizzeria, 2039 Columbia Drive.
Police had received a call of a man riding a bicycle around Hollywood Drive and Canterbury Lane shooting out car windows.
The officer caught up to the suspect by the restaurant.
“When a Pueblo police officer arrived on scene, there was a confrontation between the two individuals. The individual on the bike fired on the officer and the officer returned fire. It does appear as if the suspect had a BB gun,” Velez said.
“Things happened very, very quickly. We do have witnesses who witnessed this entire event. I’m not sure what might have been said between the officer and the deceased in this case.”
The patrol car of the firing officer was equipped with video surveillance, which Velez said will be reviewed.
Officers found eight shell casings at the scene. When asked about the number of shots fired, Velez said: “When you’re in the middle of a gun battle and you’ve been shot, you may believe you’ve fired three or four rounds when you’ve fired more.”
Valdez’s family was mourning his loss late Wednesday and trying to come to grips with the day’s events.
Edward Valdez Sr., the grandfather, said “Bubba” or “Eddie,” as he was called, graduated from South High School in June. His hobbies included video games, skate boarding and playing guitar.
“He was 21 but he had the mentality of a 16-year-old. He just didn’t want to grow up. He’s a young kid, very respectful. He was never a troubled kid,” the grandfather said. “I have no idea why he would pull a gun on an officer. But eight casings for a BB gun? (The officer) could’ve called for backup and just take him down peacefully. It’s very forceful.”
After the shooting Valdez’s body lay several hours uncovered and in the open. Laurie Kilpatrick, a deputy with the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office which is now leading the investigation, said the body was left in that state to preserve evidence.
“He was out there for six hours and not even covered up. People were passing by wondering what’s going, and when I found out it was my grandson, I couldn’t believe it,” the grandfather said. “Everyone is taking it pretty hard and no one knows what’s going on.”
The family said Valdez’s parents, who are separated, live in different locations on the South Side. Valdez had found his BB gun that morning and took it with him as he rode his bike from his mother’s house to his father’s so he could get strings for his guitar.
“He had on flip-flops, shorts and his guitar was on his back,” the grandfather said.
An autopsy was conducted on Valdez. Pueblo County Coroner James Kramer said results were not ready late Wednesday but it appeared Valdez died from multiple gunshots to his torso.
At the same press conference where Velez spoke, City Council President Chris Kaufman also made a statement to the media: “It was tragic, tragic that a life came to an end in such a manner. On behalf of the members of City Council, we pray for the deceased and his family while we also keep our thoughts and prayers with the officer, his family and the entire police department.”
The shooting, Pueblo’s second officer-involved shooting in eight months, is being investigated by the 10th Judicial District’s Critical Incident Team.