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Beyond the Badge – Deputy Jeff Brunkow

This week, KOSI 101.1 salutes Deputy Jeff Brunkow of the Boulder Sheriff’s Department.

On April 22nd, 2015, sheriff’s deputies in Boulder County, Colorado, responded to a hostage situation near Eldorado Springs, just south of the City of Boulder in Boulder County.  They encountered a young man who had taken two of his in-laws hostage at gunpoint, threatening to kill them.  He was upset that his estranged wife and kids had left him, and was threatening to kill her father and brother unless she returned.  Deputy Brunkow ended the stand-off with a single carefully placed rifle shot, and saved the lives of the two hostages.

This all started at approximately 11:00 a.m. in Westminster.  Police there were contacted by a family, concerned for the safety of the two victims in this case.  The suspect, Lue Vang, had arrived at the home of his estranged wife’s family searching for his wife.  He was upset and demanded her return to him. He also insisted that his father in-law and brother in-law accompany him to the DMV, to transfer the title on his estranged wife’s car into his name.  They left voluntarily with him.  However, within a few minutes the estranged wife/victim in this case contacted the family home from out of state, and advised them that Lue Vang had texted her pictures of a gun, and was threatening to kill her father and brother unless she returned.  The family then began communicating with the victims by text, and confirmed that they were in fact in trouble.  They called the police.

This began a high tech investigative game in the dispatch centers trying to locate the suspect and victims.  Police had a good description of the car and individuals involved, and were “pinging” cell phone locations from text messages and phone calls.  Additionally, they got periodic brief updates by text from the victims.  At one point a citizen called in reporting the car and someone trying to waive for help.  They traced their location from the DMV in Westminster, across the northern metro area through Broomfield, and continuing west toward Highway 93 in Boulder County.   Westminster Police sent out a “BOLO”, (Be On the Lookout), at approx. 1:00pm to Boulder County dispatch to watch for the car and individuals in the area of Highway 93 and Marshal, where the last phone contact was made.

In the meantime, Boulder County dispatch received two 911 calls from the area of the 4800 block of Eldorado Springs Drive. This is just a mile or so from Highway 93 and Marshal.   In one call, a male voice could be heard saying, “Why did you call the cops?”  Dispatchers began putting two and two together and warned responding deputies that the hang up 911 calls and the “BOLO” from Westminster could be related.  This was confirmed in a few minutes when they determined that the phone number of the hang-up 911 calls belonged to one of the victims in the Westminster kidnapping case.

Deputy Kerry Kirby was the first to locate the vehicle in the Doudy Draw trailhead parking area in Eldorado Springs.  He found an agitated Lue Vang, holding a revolver and two hostages.  Within a few minutes four more deputies converged on the scene.  The suspect was yelling that he, “Was not going to go down like this”, and he opened the rear passenger door and waived the gun in the air and told the deputies to back off.  The deputies were using their vehicles as cover in the open parking area, and were all 40-50 yards away from the suspect’s vehicle.

Deputy Jeff Brunkow was approximately 40 yards away, using his car door as cover and bracing his Sheriff’s Office AR15 rifle on the door.  This rifle had just recently been equipped with a small, three power scope.  The rear windows to the suspect’s car had dark tinting on them making it impossible to see in.  However, when the suspect opened the car door, it created a 4 inch opening between the car door and the window post, right in Deputy Brunkow’s line of sight.  Deputy Brunkow observed the suspect talking to the front seat passenger, and then he saw the suspect put the revolver up to the back of the victim’s head.  At that point the deputy fired a single shot, through the four inch opening from 120 feet away, striking the suspect in the right eye and killing him instantly.  The victims scrambled from the car and ran to the deputies.  They later told the deputies, “You saved our lives!”  The suspect had just told his brother-in-law, “Open your eyes and look at the mountains, because it is the last thing you will ever see.” That’s when the deputy’s shot rang out.  At first the victims thought that it was the suspect who shot.  They didn’t realize for several moments, until they were safe, that it was the Sheriff’s Deputy who had fired the shot.

Speaking with Mai Xee Lor, Lue Vang’s widow, detectives found she had been battered by Lue for several months. Xee left Lue on April 16 or 17 and fled the state the day prior to the shooting fearing he would find her and kill her. He had threatened to kill her repeatedly and on the day of the shooting, he had texted her telling her to meet him to give him the car she was driving saying, “you give me the car, I set you free. He was exchanging her life for the car. Lue texted a picture of the gun he had and told her if she did not bring the car to him, he would kill her parents, saying, “If you call the police and I see them outside, I’ll kill your parents.” And, “If you tell your parents, I’ll kill them.”

Deputy Brunkow’s actions clearly saved the lives of the two people in the car with Lue, and likely also saved Xee’s life.

Deputy Jeff Brunkow is a fifteen year veteran of the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office.  He is currently assigned to the Patrol Division and primarily works in the mountains.  He is also a Field Training Officer, and had a recruit deputy with him at the time of this incident.  His decision to shoot was carefully weighed and fully justified.  The shot was executed with precision.  His actions that day saved the lives of two innocent people.

Our heartfelt thanks and recognition to a brave law enforcement officer – Deputy Jeff Brunkow – for truly going Beyond the Badge.