Father of man killed on I-70: He let officers do the job he couldn’t
Brian Fritze, the man who was shot to death Tuesday by law enforcement after a chase on Interstate 70, left behind two children, one in Colorado and one in Oklahoma, according to his father, Melvin Fritze.
“Brian made very poor choices from early teens,” his father said in an email to the Post Independent. “Alcohol and drugs were always there as his demons. He had his good drug-free periods and years. His family is thinking of the good memories of him these last few days.”
Besides his father and father’s wife, “he also leaves an older sister, two close stepbrothers … his mother and a 94-year-old grandmother.”
Melvin Fritze said his son had a fairly recent “break with reality,” and suggested that Brian let law officers “do the job he couldn’t do.”
He fled from Garfield County deputies after a report that he attacked a woman, jumped from his truck just west of Glenwood Springs holding a gun to his head and then ran toward traffic, leading deputies to shoot him.
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Brian Fritze, 45 at the time of his death, served in the Army for four years, first in Germany and then in the first Gulf War, in 1990-91.
“He did well in the Army, perhaps because it was a structured environment,” his father wrote.
Although he had access to the VA, Melvin said his son “ran the streets” after he left the Army, and “the family never knew if he was alive or dead most days.”
He ended up in prison in Oklahoma for assault, and decided to move to Colorado to work in concrete when he got out. Here, he married his second wife and held down a job as a consultant.
After more than five years drug-free, Brian still struggled.
“Material things didn’t matter to Brian much, consequently he didn’t handle his money well,” Melvin wrote. “Adversity, marital problems, were very difficult to handle for him. Our family suspected bipolar condition, never diagnosed, but we all thought he had this illness for a long time. When given meds, he would not stay on them.”
Still, he helped his wife, family and mother with expenses, was “always friendly and never knew a stranger. He “was a good dad and loved his children.”
Then, several months ago, he “turned very sour with his wife, and he started to use again.”
“Talking to him on the phone several times, he was irrational and angry,” his father wrote. “I suggested he check in at the VA in Grand Junction and get some help, but he didn’t. His wife was being subject to difficult times and abuse. We are on good terms with her, and helping her.
“It is my personal opinion that his break from reality was too much for him to overcome and he did mention he did not want to go to prison again. His last phone call was horribly irrational and made no sense. The entire family here kept saying we loved him and told him we always would. Personally, I feel that he let the law enforcement people do the job he couldn’t do. He had never attempted suicide before in his life that I was aware of. It’s a very human tragedy and our entire family grieves, but we all feel Brian has at last found some peace.”
His father isn’t Brian Fritze’s only relative to make public comments after his death, David Fritze, Brian’s uncle, posted a comment on the PI’s Facebook page.
“Please know that there was more to Brian Fritze than the spectacle of what happened on the interstate the other day,” he wrote. “Yes, he had a criminal record and many personal challenges — anger issues, substance abuse, mental health — but at heart he was a good man. His family loved him as deeply as any family would, through ups and downs. He seemed to have turned a corner several years ago, working in oil and gas, supporting his family, loving his family and trying to be stable. He was smart, quick-minded, energetic, kind of a dynamo. He made tragic mistakes. He was confounded by life and himself at times, as we all can be.”
Meanwhile, many readers seized the opportunity to discuss the use of deadly force by considering whether deputies should have shot to kill Tuesday.
“So let me get this right, a man put a gun to his head before attempting to run and the response of the police was to shoot and kill him?” wrote Brandylin Sutton. “Obviously this man had psychological issues and could have gotten help and had charges pressed against him for all of his actions, but all I see is praise in these comments for killing a human.”
“Doesn’t anyone … understand how quickly he could have turned around and shot at the officers?” Maria Nechkash Piña fired back. “Are they supposed to wait until they are fired at to use deadly force?”
Laura Dickard agreed.
“Police don’t just kill to kill … Especially those of Garfield County,” she wrote. “I in fact know several of them and they are people too.”
Heather Williams recounted watching the chase.
“It seemed like they tried to keep as much control as possible in the situation. Thankful that no one got hurt,” she wrote, referring to innocent bystanders.
Stacie Lynn Shultz acknowledged her cousin’s demons, but reminded readers that he was a husband and a father.
“No matter the right or wrong of his actions, he was loved and will be missed. The violence of this has affected our family tremendously,” she wrote. “Kiss and hug your loved ones, as they can be gone in a flash.”
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Change in the field of law enforcement is happening. Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario has seen it.