Frisco police shoot car thief suspect in hand
The holiday cheer of Christmas Day came to an abrupt halt late Sunday evening when an alleged car theft in Breckenridge ended in an officer-involved shooting near the 7-Eleven in Frisco.
According to a Monday morning press release, the Breckenridge Police Department put out a call to officers throughout the county to be on the lookout for a black Toyota four-wheel-drive vehicle a little after 11:20 p.m. Christmas night. The truck was logged as stolen from outside the 7-Eleven off State Highway 9 in Breckenridge after being left idling in the parking lot.
Summit County Sheriff’s Office deputies spotted a truck matching the description just before 11:30 p.m. and stopped it on Ten Mile Road at the intersection of Summit Boulevard, location of the Frisco Plaza Center shopping area. A Frisco police officer and Colorado State Patrol trooper soon arrived as backup.
Upon being approached by officers, the man in the truck — later identified as 33-year-old Nathaniel Steven Leisz — reportedly held a knife to himself in a threatening manner and refused to abide by orders from the officers. Police then used a Taser and a single bean bag round from a shotgun to try to disarm him. According to the release, when those efforts were unsuccessful, Leisz charged at officers with the weapon. A sheriff’s deputy then fired several rounds from his gun at him, one of which hit Leisz’s hand.
Officers arrested the wounded suspect and furnished aid while awaiting the arrival of an ambulance. A fire engine from Lake Dillon Fire Rescue joined the rescue vehicle, adding to the massive scrum of emergency response vehicles and flashing lights that caused a stir in the otherwise vacant area because of the holiday. Leisz was loaded into the cab and taken to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco to be stabilized before being transferred to a hospital in Lakewood.
Leisz’s bond has been set at $50,000 and he faces six charges — four felonies and two misdemeanors. They include first-degree assault, menacing, aggravated motor vehicle theft and first-degree criminal trespassing in an automobile, as well as obstructing a peace officer and resisting arrest. He will remain admitted at the hospital until he is well enough to be transferred back to the Summit County Detentions Facility in Breckenridge.
While the Colorado Bureau of Investigation conducts a full investigation, protocol among both the sheriff’s office and Frisco Police Department is to withhold the names of the officers involved in such an incident. As is also standard procedure, the deputy who discharged his weapon was placed on paid leave until an internal review is completed.
By about noon Monday, the CBI collected its set of orange markers and departed after finishing its inquiry. The only remnant of the incident at that point was a fresh stain of blood on the snow-covered road into the 7-Eleven and shopping center where a black garment was laid over it the prior night.
The sheriff’s office believed the situation to be the first where a member of local law enforcement used deadly force in almost 25 years. The prior instance entailed an officer with the Silverthorne Police Department firing at a man wielding a machete at a townhouse on the corner of 4th Street between Brian and Adams avenues in the early 1990s. That person was immobilized, but not killed.
An incident of this nature does not require a CBI investigation, but both the sheriff’s office and Frisco Police Department requested the state agency process the crime scene and perform a review. Meanwhile, the two county departments will continue their own criminal probes against the suspect.
“It’s definitely not normal,” said Black. “You don’t necessarily want to get out brandishing a knife in their direction. It’s sort of foolish. I would have to guess that he wasn’t all together, and he was having a bad day or a long day — one or the other.”