Officer recounts terrifying night |

Officer recounts terrifying night

Pete Fowler

Editor’s Note: Officer Dustin Marantino agreed to speak to the Post Independent about the night he was shot, but asked that his photo not be used with the story.Getting shot was the scariest thing Dustin Marantino has ever been through. On July 29 Marantino was on patrol for the Glenwood Springs Police Department. He went to check out the area south of the Glenwood Springs Airport at an impound lot where there have been reports of break-ins and vandalism.”As I was driving, I saw some people and couldn’t tell what they were doing,” said Marantino, who was on patrol by himself. “There was some movement on the fence. It appeared to be someone either climbing in or out of the impound lot.”It was after 10 p.m. on a Sunday night. Marantino stopped to investigate. He started looking at the cars in the lot for possible signs of vandalism or to see if anyone was inside.”Then I saw these two guys come out from behind these bushes and trees along the fence line,” Marantino said.He was walking along the impound lot’s fence when the two men came into view about 30 feet away. Then they turned almost immediately and walked away from Marantino.”I said hey, guys, hold up for a second,” Marantino said. “It appeared that they didn’t want to talk to me and continued to move along.”He told the men to stop a couple more times.Then things got scary.”As I continued to try to close the gap between us, one of them turned and produced a firearm and started shooting,” Marantino said. “It was very quick. As he turned, I saw the gun coming around. I immediately started backpedaling and began reaching for my handgun.”Shots were fired.Marantino said they were about 10 to 15 feet away from each other. There was no cover nearby, so the officer and the gunman moved away from each other during the brief exchange. The man fired multiple shots, the first shot hitting Marantino square to the chest into his bulletproof vest. Marantino said he didn’t fall down, but it hurt. He said it felt like someone hit him in the chest with a baseball bat. He returned multiple shots but was unsure if he hit anyone.”I was pulling my gun as soon as I saw his gun, but he got the first shot off,” he said.The men ran to the south. Marantino didn’t feel comfortable running after them into the darkness, alone, outnumbered and unsure whether or not the bullet penetrated his bulletproof vest.The gunshot to the chest throbbed.”At that point there were so many question marks, I wasn’t prepared to continue trying to contact them by myself,” he said.The suspects are still at large. He called over the radio that he’d been shot and returned to his patrol vehicle. He stayed just behind the vehicle’s open door where he could move quickly if needed.”For that first several minutes it was kind of a roller coaster trying to figure out if [the bulletproof vest] stopped the bullet or not,” he said.He wondered if the men would come back to try and to shoot him again. Cars with lights flashing and sirens blaring soon were speeding toward his location. He could hear all kinds of chatter over the radio, and that provided some relief for Marantino.Even though backup was quick to arrive, he said it seemed like an eternity. He’d just been shot, two men were still on the loose and it was in a dark, remote part of town. He had reason to worry.He was checked at Valley View Hospital but suffered only superficial injuries and was released the next day.Taking a bullet into his vest will leave a lasting impression of the value they provide.He has little doubt that his vest saved his life.The bullet hit him square and directly at a vital organ.”It was right above my aorta, so I imagine it would have been a pretty fatal wound,” he said.Officer now with Rifle PDMost people say their jobs are tough. But most people don’t get shot on the job.For Dustin Marantino, getting shot has not deterred him from police work.Marantino was less than three shifts away from being finished at the Glenwood Springs Police Department the night he was shot in the chest in a bulletproof vest. After seven months with the Glenwood force, he’d planned to go back to work for the Rifle Police Department, where he’d worked for five years.”There were no problems or concerns with the job at all, my life just kind of took a different turn,” he said.He found housing in Glenwood Springs a little expensive and decided to buy a house in Rifle, ultimately deciding not to make the commute.The thought of getting out of law enforcement did cross his mind after getting shot in the chest on July 29. But it didn’t last long. He started work the week of Aug. 13 and now plans to stay with the Rifle Police Department despite knowing there’s always a chance he could again be shot.”Even after the shooting, I can’t imagine doing anything else,” he said. “I don’t know what else I would do that would make me happier.”Marantino grew up in Rifle and likes being a cop. Finding opportunities to help people and make a difference, is what he loves. He remembers spending time with an elderly lady whose husband recently died. He says he ended up talking to her for about 40 minutes.”She just needed somebody to talk to,” he said.EmotionsAfter reflecting on the shooting, Marantino thought about some tough questions. He wondered if he should have conducted himself differently.”I think you run the whole gamut of emotions,” Marantino said. “You’re thankful you’re not hurt, angry that it happened to you. I started questioning the tactics I had used.”Ultimately, he’s comfortable knowing there wasn’t much he could have done differently. He doesn’t believe he was being complacent – something that can happen after a long time of routine contacts and traffic stops.He doesn’t like that some people seemed to have turned the shooting into a racial issue. It’s not a race issue, he said.”Criminal behavior is criminal behavior,” he said. “It doesn’t affect one portion of society. It affects them all.”InvestigationOther than his accounts of the shooting, descriptions of the suspects and work with composite sketches, Marantino said he’s been excluded from the investigation to preserve his recollections of the shooting. Two suspects were arrested on suspicion of the shooting and released for lack of evidence to file charges.”Sure it’s frustrating,” Marantino said about the investigation. “With anything like this, for me personally I’m looking for some closure on it. So it was frustrating we weren’t able to get there.”He wouldn’t comment on whether or not he believes the two men arrested were the ones actually involved. It was frustrating to the entire law enforcement community, but the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office have done the best possible job, he added.Marantino mainly wants to thank people from the community.Love and support came from regular citizens in addition to the law enforcement community and family and friends, he said. Things like positive commentary he’s heard and watching the reward for information on suspects grow were unexpected.”That was really amazing to see that outpouring of support,” he said. “I wanted to make sure I got an opportunity to say thank you.”