A Denver police officer will lose more than three weeks of pay for leaving her department-issued rifle unsecured in the front seat of her patrol car, and then a carjacking suspect used the weapon to threaten other officers with it after stealing the car.
Officer Ana Munoz will serve 18 days of unpaid suspension for not properly securing the gun, according to a Denver Department of Public Safety disciplinary letter obtained by The Denver Post through a records request. Other officers shot and killed the man after he pointed the department rifle at them, according to police.
On Oct. 21, 2019, Munoz and another officer responded to a call of an attempted carjacking at knifepoint that happened at a car wash in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Munoz and the other officer found the suspect, later identified as 26-year-old Adam Martinez, nearby and confronted him. Martinez did not obey the officers’ commands to lie down and instead hopped into Munoz’s running patrol car, where her AR-15 was sitting in the passenger seat in an unlocked case.
Munoz drove off and officers pursued the stolen patrol car and reported over the radio that Martinez had grabbed the rifle and waved it out the window. Officers purposefully crashed into the patrol car and stopped it on Eighth Avenue under the Interstate 25 overpass.
Martinez pointed the rifle at officers, according to police, and three officers shot and killed him. Investigators later discovered Munoz’s rifle was unloaded, though one of the rifle’s 30-round magazines was in the front seat.
Denver police policy requires officers carrying rifles to lock the weapon in the trunk or use a locking rack. Munoz attended department training about using a rifle, including how to store it safely, eleven days prior to the shooting, according to the disciplinary letter.
The 18-day suspension is the lowest possible for this level of rule violation, according to the letter. The highest possible discipline was a 42-day suspension, but public safety officials found the 18-day suspension appropriate because of Munoz’s lack of prior discipline and sincere remorse.
“She emotionally described for the hearing panel how the event weighs on her a lot, and that as the event was unraveling, all she could think of was civilians or other officers getting hurt or not going back to their family,” Chief Deputy Executive Director of Public Safety Mary Dulacki wrote in the disciplinary letter. “Though Officer Munoz expressed gratitude that no officers were hurt, she also expressed regret that the suspect is no longer here.”
Denver District Attorney Beth McCann found in August that the officers did not break criminal law when they shot Martinez.