Three men in clown masks and camouflage unleashed a fusillade of gunfire outside a north Colorado Springs home last month when an attempted drug robbery went off the rails, an intended victim told police.
When the shooting stopped, one of the masked men lay dead in the backyard, the victim of a gunshot wound to the head.
How he died and who pulled the trigger are among the questions Colorado Springs police are pursuing from an unlikely suspect: former defense attorney and one-time El Paso County prosecutor Carl West, 52, one of two men tied to the Sept. 17 robbery attempt, according to charging documents.
The shooting occurred at 4:40 a.m. outside a home with a "substantial marijuana grow" in the basement, together with 10 pounds of dried pot and $4,000-$5,000 in cash, police said. West was arrested minutes after the attack when police stopped him in a silver Chevrolet Suburban matching the description of a getaway vehicle, an arrest affidavit shows.
Alone in the SUV, West refused to account for a rifle and sighting scope police found inside, the affidavit alleges.
"Am I being detained?" he asked an officer. "I want a lawyer."
An alleged accomplice, Jared Lee Carpenter, 35, was arrested two days later. Both were charged last month with two counts of aggravated robbery - one for each occupant of a home police say was targeted in the 6600 block of North Union Boulevard.
Neither has been directly implicated in the slaying of the masked man, Phillip Cyprian III, whose death remains under investigation.
Police in arrest papers for West and Carpenter do not specify if they believe his death came at the hands of an accomplice or if it was the result of return gunfire.
But investigators found a number of items suggesting Cyprian, 36, could have been involved in the botched raid.
The dead man was "dressed in tan camouflage tactical-type gear and a 'clown' face mask," detective Richard Gysin wrote in an arrest affidavit. Beside his body were a rifle and a pistol, and he wore a backpack containing handcuffs and zip ties, items Gysin said were commonly used in home invasions, but also a bottle of tequila.
"I don't know anything," Cyprian's widow, Salena Cyprian, told The Gazette. "My husband was a good man. He was an arborist."
Court documents show that Salena Cyprian reported her husband missing on the morning of the shooting, saying he didn't return from a night out with an acquaintance. She declined to comment further, saying she hadn't been filled in by police about the circumstances of her husband's death and "didn't believe" he was involved in a robbery.
Neighbors described hearing 10-12 gunshots after shouted threats of a shooting, police said.
One of the victims of the attempted home invasion, Colton Hinley, 20, told police he was awakened by his dog barking at the back door.
He tried to flip on an outside light to investigate, but found it was out. Then he opened the door to find "three men in Mardi Gras-type masks with rifles and flashlights" in his backyard.
Hinley told police the trio began shooting at him, sending him scrambling for safety inside. One of the rounds the men fired entered a next-door neighbor's house and traveled through four walls before shattering a bathroom mirror, police and neighbors say.
The arrest affidavits make no mention of anyone returning fire from within the house.
For West, the allegations mark a stunning new chapter after more than a decade of turbulence in his personal and professional life, records suggest.
His law license was revoked in 2015 after a string of sanctions, the latest of which involved his failure to appear at two court hearings on behalf of a client. In April, disciplinary judge William Lucero denied West's request to have his law license reinstated and ruled he could not reapply for two more years.
He has been sanctioned by the state Supreme Court at least three times since 2003, records show, including for cocaine use, driving under the influence of alcohol, an attack on his wife, and an apparent attempt to bilk a client.
His first license suspension came in 2003 after a client reported that he mishandled a wrongful death lawsuit and told her he was entitled to a one-third share of a $250,000 accidental death insurance benefit she received after her husband was killed in an auto crash.
West lacked "any legal basis for collecting a contingent fee," Lucero wrote, calling his claim to the client "knowingly dishonest."
When police arrived to investigate the domestic violence incident, in 2008, West "tried but failed to jump a fence and then attempted to take a swing at an officer," Lucero said.
The episode resulted in West pleading guilty in 2008 to third-degree assault and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors.
West received his law degree in 1993 and worked for several years as a deputy district attorney in El Paso County beginning in 1994. He was in private practice from 1998 until his revocation in March 2015.
West is free on $75,000 bond. His court-appointed attorney, David Lipka, did not respond to a phone message left Friday. An attorney for Carpenter, Ed Farry, declined to comment.
Both men are due for an Oct. 21 preliminary hearing.