Police received a call around 3 a.m. Saturday morning of shots being fired. The Denver Post reported that when police arrived at the two-story townhouse in Aurora Colorado, they were met by a woman who had escaped the house by jumping from an upstairs back window.
Neighbors and family members later identified her as the suspected gunman's wife, Stephanie Philbrook Archuletta. She said she had noticed three apparently lifeless bodies as she made her escape from the home.
Police and SWAT team members surrounded the house, and hostage negotiators were able to get the suspect on the phone, but according to police the man "was behaving very irrationally throughout the incident and often hanging up on the negotiators."
The gunman's wife later characterized her husband to police as being mentally ill. Police are also investigating the possibility that the gunman was using methamphetamine, and had been without sleep for 4-days.
Police Sgt. Cassidee Carlson told reporters "After we arrived on scene, there were no more shots fired up until he fired at us." "During this time he was all over the house. He moved furniture. He was throwing things. He was agitated. He was irrational."
ABC News reported that just before 8 a.m. members of the SWAT team went to the front of the house in an armored vehicle to break out a window. The suspect fired repeatedly at the vehicle, hitting it several times, but no officers were injured and police did not fire back.
For an hour, police repeatedly fired tear gas into the house and told the man to come out, but he continued to refuse. At around 9 a.m., the suspect began firing at police from a second story window.
"He came to a second story window with a gun and fired upon us a second time," Aurora Police Department spokeswoman Sgt. Cassidee Carlson said. "This time shots were returned, the suspect was hit." Police then entered the house and found two men and one woman dead.
What lessons can we learn from this tragedy?
1. Jumping out of a window can save your life. Stephanie Archuleta would probably have been shot had she not taken immediate action to escape by jumping from the second story window.
2. When you hear shots being fired you need to get down and take cover. Next-door neighbor Melissa Wright, a nurse who treated victims of the July movie theater shootings in Aurora, said she was in her second-floor bedroom when she saw the gunman start shooting from his own bedroom window. She said she didn't know what he was shooting at, and that she quickly dropped to the floor.
"I hit the ground pretty fast," Wright said. Wright said she slid on her belly to the first floor of her home and told police what she saw upstairs.
3. The wall between you and a shooter may not protect you. One neighbor reported shots coming through the wall of her home.
4. Guns and the use of any type of drug including alcohol is a recipe for disaster.
5. If you have a drug or alcohol abuser in your home and there is a gun in the house either lock it up where they can't get access to it, or get rid of it.
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