DA: Fatal July shooting in Black Forest justified

September 20, 2011

El Paso County sheriff’s deputies were acting in self-defense when they fatally shot a Black Forest man near his parents’ house in July, investigators with the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office ruled Tuesday.

The ruling clears the four deputies who shot at Daniel Leskinen, 45, as he fired off several rounds from his pistol in the pre-dawn hours of July 26, according to a release by the District Attorney’s Office.

It marks the fourth officer-involved shooting to be ruled justified this year, and the second involving El Paso County deputies.

The District Attorney’s Office is still investigating the death of Christen Lea Vargas, who was shot Sept. 13 after she ran over a deputy’s foot outside the Chief Motel, 1624 S. Nevada Ave.

The ruling by the DA issued Tuesday stated that Leskinen died after a tense standoff in the woods outside 6445 Coolwell Drive in Black Forest.

Deputies were called to the house around 12:30 a.m. after Leskinen fired his gun during an argument with his 73-year-old father, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

He fled after the argument and it took deputies equipped with an infrared camera more than 45 minutes to spot Leskinen in the woods, investigators said.

Once they found him, Leskinen ignored commands to drop his gun and instead began waiving the firearm in the air while threatening to kill himself.

At some point in the negotiations, Leskinen said he was a medical marijuana patient and asked deputies if he could light up.

Deputies continued to talk to Leskinen as he smoked marijuana and set down his gun, investigators said.

When he did, Sgt. Robert Stone fired his stun gun at Leskinen, investigators said.

Unfazed, Leskinen picked up the gun and began firing — prompting Sgt. Cy Gillespie, deputy Bradley Bengford, deputy John Watts and deputy Chris Herman to return fire.

His death was the first homicide in unincorporated El Paso County this year.

Leskinen's mother, Caroline Leskinen, said Tuesday that she didn't want to talk about the shooting.

"He was a very beloved son,” Caroline Leskinen said.

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