For the second time in a year, a long procession of police cars weaved quietly from New Life Church into downtown Colorado Springs to honor a police officer shot to death in the course of duty.
Meanwhile, prior court records surrounding Marco Lee, the man accused of killing Officer Kenneth Jordan, revealed he was a felon and by law was barred from having a gun.
But Lee, 25, appeared to flout the law while free from state prison under a deal agreed upon by the El Paso County District Attorney's Office. On his MySpace Web page, he casually brandished a pistol in photos and stated that he loved to go to the shooting range.
"I love shooting guns, kicking back drinking, smoking a bowl, hanging out with friends and being outdoors," stated his site, which was frozen last week as evidence by prosecutors.
Lee was not ignorant of the law.
He signed paperwork acknowledging he couldn't own a gun as part of a plea bargain on April 20. Without that plea bargain, he faced up to three years in prison for several offenses, including vehicular eluding and carrying a concealed gun without a permit.
The charges stemmed from an incident about a month earlier in which Lee was pulled over by police and, according to his own account in court records, "got mad and sped off."
The DA's Office agreed to drop all but the eluding charge, a felony, in exchange for 200 hours of community service, anger management classes and other conditions. If Lee obeyed the law, his conviction would be erased after three years, according to a signed deferred sentencing agreement.
The DA looks at each case separately and provides second chances so offenders may turn their lives around, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Lisa Kirkman.
Many do just that, but Lee apparently failed, she told the Independent prior to a judge-imposed gag order on Tuesday. Prosecutors now are prevented from speaking about specifics of the case.
"Could we have predicted he was going to go off and kill an officer? No," she said.
In May, just weeks after Lee got the deal, police again pulled Lee over. This time, he was charged with driving under the influence.
Although the DA's Office could have filed paperwork to revoke the deal that allowed Lee to remain out of prison, it did not. Only last week, after Lee was formally charged in the shooting of Jordan, a 32-year-old DUI officer, did the office ask a judge to consider pulling it.
Kirkman could not comment on why the DA's office chose not to act in May. However, she said, whether prosecutors seek revocation depends on a variety of factors, including the seriousness of the offense.
"A Wild West state'
Although Judge G. David Miller ordered the destruction of the gun that police confiscated from Lee in March, it is highly improbable that officials followed up to ensure Lee did not possess other guns.
Speaking generally, Kirkman said the DA's Office is extremely hesitant to order home searches or anything that might be construed as violating an offender's constitutional right to privacy.
Had Lee been sentenced to probation last April, he would have been required to undergo risk assessments gauging his potential to commit another crime.
Jack Ruszczyk, chief probation officer for the 4th Judicial District, didn't know how Lee would have fared in an assessment months ago. But given the relatively low-level nature of Lee's felony, he suspected that even under probation, Lee "may not have gotten enough attention."
The probation office is under-funded, he explained, and only a small number of offenders are intensively monitored.
Lee's name did not come up among felons who failed a background check after trying to buy a gun in the state, said Susan Kitchen, Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent in charge.
However, state law mandates background checks of gun purchasers only if they buy the gun through a dealer. People selling guns through a classified ad, for example, aren't allowed to conduct checks.
"We're kind of a Wild West state," Kitchen said.
Lee was hospitalized for gun wounds after officers allegedly returned gunfire to his vehicle near Fountain and Murray boulevards.
Lee was released from the hospital earlier this week and was taken to county jail. He is facing charges of first-degree murder and vehicular eluding with substantial risk of death to another. He will appear in court Thursday, Dec. 14.
Another Colorado Springs police officer, Jared Jensen, was shot and killed in February as he pursued a suspect on foot. Before Jensen's death, the last officer to be killed in the line of duty had been Mark Dabling in 1982.
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