DA: No charges to be filed against Undersheriff Hart
RGCSO deputy involved in Nov. 7 shooting in South Fork
ALAMOSA — After reviewing a comprehensive report from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation concerning the Nov. 7 officer-involved shooting in South Fork, 12th Judicial District Attorney Anne Kelly announced on Friday, Dec. 9, she will not be filing charges against Rio Grande County Undersheriff Heath Hart.
According to Kelly, the CBI conducted a comprehensive and thorough investigation, detailed in a report that contained recorded interviews with witnesses, a recorded interview of Hart, police communications as well as reports, photographs and video footage including Hart’s body-cam footage from the incident.
“Undersheriff Hart’s use of force against an armed individual firing multiple shots at Undersheriff Hart is not criminal,” Kelly said in her statement. “Under the applicable law, no charges can or should be filed against (the officer).”
Along with her statement, Kelly released a copy of the letter she sent to Rio Grande County Sheriff Anne Robinson, notifying her of the decision along with, among other things, a step-by-step description of the incident and an explanation of the legal basis for her decision to not pursue charges against the undersheriff.
According to the information contained Kelly’s letter, in the early morning hours of Nov. 7, Hart was called to investigate the theft of a Toyota 4Runner in Rio Grande County. During the course of that investigation, RGSO identified Tobey Enfield, 23, as a suspect in that theft and the recent theft of other vehicles.
RGSO learned Enfield may be at a residence in the Upper Alpine neighborhood in South Fork. Hart went to the residence to make contact but got no response and was driving through the neighborhood to see if he could find the vehicle when he spotted the 4Runner.
The report states that Hart approached the vehicle with caution as the vehicle was stolen with two firearms inside. Hart believed the driver, later identified as Enfield, may be in possession of the weapons.
Hart began to pursue Enfield who led Hart on a chase through the Upper Alpine neighborhood and onto dirt roads, suddenly coming to a stop at the intersection of Blackhawk and Farnsworth roads in, what appears to be according to a photo attached to the report, a rural area with only one residence located at the top of the hill.
When Enfield got out of the 4Runner and started up the hill toward a residence, Hart saw that he was carrying a handgun and called out “he’s got a gun … gun.” to dispatch.
Hart then ducked under his dashboard moments before the windshield of his car was shattered by — what Hart’s body-cam footage later determined to be — five gunshots. One of those shots struck Hart under his left arm.
Hart then got out of his vehicle and yelled at Enfield to stop. Enfield, who continued to run up the hill, fired his weapon four more times. He then ran to a 2020 Ford F350 parked near the residence and, with the truck between Hart and himself, Enfield fired another shot in Hart’s direction.
Hart took cover behind a small mound of dirt and fired two more shots.
Enfield then got into the F350 and started the engine, remaining in the vehicle while Hart approached, firing his weapon three more times toward Enfield. Hart commanded Enfield “multiple times” to take his hands off the wheel and turn off the engine.
Enfield complied and, when Hart approached the vehicle, he asked Enfield if he was shot.
“four times,” Enfield said.
Hart “immediately called for medical assistance” which arrived 5 to 10 minutes later, during which time Hart said he continued to detain Enfield at gunpoint.
“Undersheriff Hart reports that he did not know whether Mr. Enfield had access to the weapon and did not appear incapacitated,” Kelly wrote. “For that reason, Undersheriff Hart did not provide medical aid.”
Enfield was transported to a local hospital and then flown to Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs where he received treatment for three gunshot wounds. After receiving medical treatment, Enfield was returned to Rio Grande County Jail where his condition remains stable, according to the letter dated Dec. 7.
In officer-involved shootings, the question of “reasonable force” is often at the core of the issue.
“The question is whether a reasonable officer, confronted with the same facts and circumstances, could have concluded that it was necessary to use reasonable force to defend himself or another and stop the threat that Mr. Enfield presented and, if so, whether that threat was reasonable and appropriate to that threat,” Kelly wrote. “In this case, the answer to both of those is yes.
“Undersheriff Hart used force only after deadly force was used on him by Mr. Enfield.
“These cases are important to the officers and civilians involved, as well as to our community as a whole. I am thankful Mr. Enfield survived without more serious injuries and that no one else was wounded or killed. It is apparent this situation could have ended much worse, but for Undersheriff Hart’s courageous and effective response,” Kelly stated.