Trooper shot once, not three times
November 14, 2006
Steven Appl fired only one bullet at a state trooper last month – not as many as three, as had once been believed.
Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said Monday that investigators revised their estimates after ballistics and forensics work was completed.
Colorado State Patrol trooper Brian Koch suffered a serious injury to his left arm Oct. 24 when he was shot after he pulled over Appl for a routine traffic stop near Silt. Appl was driving a stolen vehicle.
Police originally thought Koch also had taken two shots to the chest, which was protected by a bulletproof vest. Vallario said that in fact, one bullet went through Koch’s arm, changed direction and struck the vest. He said bullet fragments were found in Koch’s arm, and what was left of the bullet was found on the ground at the scene of the shooting.
That explains Koch being struck twice, but Vallario isn’t sure why authorities initially thought he had been shot three times.
“That was a rumor that got started, and I don’t know what the source of it was. … There was just a lot of speculation going on at that point. Nobody knew for sure,” he said.
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Vallario said Koch was holding a flashlight in his left hand when he approached Appl’s car and saw a gun in Appl’s lap. Koch put up his arm and was shot.
Koch reportedly returned fire with several shots but Appl was able to escape in the stolen car, which later was found to have three bullet holes in it. Koch managed to radio dispatchers for help.
Appl shot himself to death at a police checkpoint near the shooting scene a day later. Vallario said investigators found two spent rounds in the gun, which corresponds with the bullet he fired at Koch and the one he used to kill himself.
An affidavit used to support the arrests of Wayne Hangs and Nichole Brownell as suspected accessories to the crime also reveals that police fired gas rounds into the vehicle Appl was in after he shot himself. The measure was taken as a precaution in case Appl was still alive.
Capt. Rich Duran, of the state patrol’s Glenwood post, said Koch is out of the hospital and resting.
“He’s feeling a lot better,” Duran said.
He said Koch is taking medication and still dealing with a lot of pain. He will undergo a bone graft operation sometime within a month in an attempt to repair his shattered arm, and continues to hope to return to active duty.
“Right now we’re still pretty optimistic that he’ll return; at least that’s what he’s telling us,” Duran said.
The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.