By Bob Uphues
A former Riverside police officer was wounded in the line of duty during a shootout between police and a suspected car thief in Colorado Springs on Feb. 5.
Marcus Yanez, now a detective for the Colorado Springs Police Department, was one of six people shot during the gun battle. El Paso County Deputy Micah Flick was killed and two other county sheriff's deputies were wounded, in addition to Yanez.
A civilian who was walking in the area at the time also was wounded when the gun battle broke out. The suspected car thief, 19-year-old Manuel Zetina, was also killed during the exchange of gunfire.
Reports indicate that police are investigating whether Flick was killed by Zetina or hit by friendly fire.
Yanez was shot in the groin, according to news reports, and has been released from the hospital. Yanez and Flick were partners, said Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel, working as part of an auto theft task force when they and the other officers located a stolen vehicle being driven by Zetina at about 3:55 p.m. on Feb. 5.
According to published reports, officers allowed Zetina to exit the vehicle before attempting to arrest him. As the officers approached him on foot, Zetina allegedly pulled out a handgun and began firing.
Weitzel said he and many officers on the Riverside force have reached out to Yanez's family to offer support.
"Obviously he'll have a bit of a physical road to recovery," Weitzel said.
Yanez worked for the Riverside Police Department from 1997 to 2007, leaving at the rank of officer-in-charge, a step below sergeant.
His decision to leave Riverside was partly due to a desire to expand the range of opportunities professionally. In Riverside, he served as a patrolman, field training officer, evidence technician and senior citizens officer.
"He wants to expand beyond doing patrol," Weitzel said at the time. "He was an outstanding officer and he'll be sorely missed."
But, Weitzel said, Yanez was willing to give up 10 years of seniority in order to move to Colorado Springs, a city of about 465,000 located near the foot of Pike's Peak, in east-central Colorado.
"He was really drawn to that area," Weitzel said. "Once he left, he never looked back."
It's been a particularly violent start to 2018 for police in Colorado. Six officers have been killed in the line of duty since Dec. 31, 2017.