COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - On Feb. 5, 2018, an auto theft task force comprised of El Paso County sheriff's deputies, state troopers, and Colorado Springs police officers was attempting to arrest a car theft suspect when things went horribly wrong.
From left: Deputy Scott Stone, Deputy Micah Flick
Manuel Zetina opened fire on officers In a matter of seconds, he and Deputy Micah Flick were both dead and three officers were wounded.
Deputy Scott Stone still carries a reminder of that day with him: a bullet, lodged in his body. It's a reminder of the friend he lost and the life he got to keep.
He sat down with 11 News for a powerful 20-minute interview, recounting the events of that day, the fight for his own life, and how he honors Flick's legacy.
How did the day start?
"Like any other day. So we were doing an auto theft task force that day. So we start usually at our starting point with Colorado Springs Police Department. El Paso County Sheriff's Office, Colorado Springs Police Department and State Patrol all met. We get our daily briefing. Some stolen car lists from the week and that kind of thing, and then we go out and we look for stolen cars."
What led up to the shooting?
"That day when we were contacting Mr. Zetina, we had seen him in the car. So we went to go contact him. He started walking out toward me, and I contacted him. The shooting began. No warning at all."
What was going through your mind?
"At first, I didn’t even think that it was a gunshot. The first thing that I heard when I attempted to arrest Mr. Zetina was, ‘I think I heard a gunshot.’ And I tried to hold on to him, making the arrest, and I realized something was wrong. I started losing feeling from my hip down and I knew that if I didn’t hold on to him that something bad was going to happen. Even though I was losing feeling, I knew I needed to hold on to Mr. Zetina. That’s when Micah jumped in and tried to help me. I fell down. I lost feeling in my legs. I couldn’t feel anything anymore and Micah continued fighting.
"Micah was shot. Some other detectives working on our task force jumped in and tried to restrain Mr. Zetina, and unfortunately, we had to use deadly force at that point to stop him from hurting other people. He hurt not only the four officers that were on scene -- myself, Jake Abendshan, Marcus Yanez and Micah Flick -- but he also hurt an innocent civilian. Mr. Zetina did not care about human life that day. He did not care about who he hurt or who he was going to kill. He was focused on himself, and we tried to stop him."
You had no idea you were shot?
"I lost feeling below my hip, and I remember hitting the ground and looking up and seeing Mr. Zetina still shooting and thinking, ‘We’ve got to stop this.’ I actually drew my firearm getting ready to engage him, knowing that that could be my last couple moments. But I have a job to do. I need to stop him. Even if it’s my last breath, I’m going to stop him from hurting other people."
You were rushed to the hospital. Were you given a status on what was going on with the other officers?
"I knew going into the ambulance that Micah was hurt very badly, and I had a feeling that he had passed. Just the sights and sounds and smells that I experienced, I can’t really describe it, but the best way to describe it is almost like a combat, like battlefield. You almost have the feeling like you know when one of your friends or comrades are hurt badly and something bad happened to them. I had that feeling with Micah. I knew something bad had happened. I didn’t want it to. So I was trying to tell myself, ‘You didn’t see or you didn’t know what you knew.’
"Later on at the hospital … I was told after I woke up after surgery that Micah had passed and he died saving others."
What went through your mind?
"It didn’t register. It actually didn’t register for several days, several days. It wasn’t real because I was in a hospital bed. I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to walk again. I was on medication. I was going through a whole bunch of stuff, so nothing felt really real to me. I thought it was like either a dream or, like, it was just like I was going to wake up tomorrow and everything was going to be fine. It took almost nine months before it really -- I would say really kicked in.
What was your relationship like with Deputy Flick?
"Micah and I actually were on the road together. I came up before he did. He came from the jail. I was a lateral back in 2013 from another agency. ... One of the best memories I have of Micah is during the “riot” at Palmer Park, the carnival riot, Micah … I actually remember because Micah had the SRT training. He had a lot of riot-control training, so he was out there directing not only our guys but CSPD guys on how to form a line, where to stand, and making sure everybody was good to go so that way we all made it out of there OK.
"He was making sure that everybody goes home safe. That was the kind of person Micah was. He put others first. So that was his personality. I remember even on the task force when we worked together. If we rode together, he was always asking about family. He was always asking what I was doing because he was in a different division than I was, so really our on day to "hang out" was on the task force looking for stolen cars together."
Would the outcome be different if Flick hadn't stepped up on that day?
"I would not be here. I think there would have been a lot more people hurt. I think there would be a lot more people dead if Micah didn’t do what he did."
Two weeks after you're shot, you find out your wife is pregnant?
"Yeah! She was pregnant right before the shooting, and then she tells me two weeks after the shooting. I'm still laying in a hospital bed trying to regain feeling below my hip and she tells me, 'I'm pregnant.' And I'm like, 'Well, OK,' And she's like, 'You've got 10 months to get better, so get to it!'"
How lucky do you feel?
"The fact that I get to see, got to see my daughter being born and actually get to spend time with my daughter is … my gosh. I don’t even have the right words to describe that feeling and getting to know that. I know that I wouldn’t get that if Micah didn’t do what he did. I’ve reflected on that so many times, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about that. I’m a lucky person.
"I've read other articles and I've talked with other officers who have had partners die in the line of duty. And their wives were pregnant with their children. Those officers never got to meet their children. I am probably one of the luckiest police officers in the world that I got time with my daughter."
Does it ever get easier?
"Yes and no. It gets easier in the fact that I know Micah would not want us to dwell on the negatives. He would not want us to dwell on the fact that he died. He would want us to celebrate how he lived and what kind of person he was. Even from beyond the grave, Micah is still contributing to this office because he brought us together. He made -- he brought -- unity to this office, and he brought a sense of brotherhood back when things may have been a little bit diminished, where we see so much in the national media about people hating officers, or people shooting cops or killing cops or ambushing cops. That demoralizes people. Micah, because everybody knew how he lived made it -- we all wanted to be like him. We wanted to be thankful for what we had, so it brought us a lot closer.
"And even in the state of Colorado, I can't tell you how many officers I've met, injured and not injured, who have reached out to me, who have been like, 'We're thinking about you, we're here for you. If you need anything, you can ask any one of us.' That's huge. It made it easier in the fact that I now have a bigger family than I ever could have imagined, beyond just my agency. I also have so many closer relationships with people at my agency than I ever thought I would have."
Not currently on the auto theft task force?
"I am not currently on the BATTLE team. That's partially due to my injuries. I still have injuries and still have functional issues with my hip and my left leg."
Are you angry at Zetina?
"I don’t think I’m angry. I’ve come to terms with a new norm, of normal for my life and for my family’s life. Sure, there’s things in my life that I haven’t got to do, especially in my career, that I wanted to do, that I may never get the chance to do, but I’m OK with that because I’ve found other things that I’m passionate about and other callings in this career that I can succeed at and I can move forward with, and I am OK with that. I'd rather do that then dwell on what could have been or what I lost."
What will it take to bridge that gap between law enforcement and civilians?
"... Respect and love. On both sides of the coin. We need to make sure that we’re showing support for law enforcement, but at the same time, we need to understand what law enforcement does on a day in and day out basis and understand that our system is made up of accountability and that's what law enforcement is here for. It's not because law enforcement officers have a personal vendetta against people; they aren't out there beating people up just to beat people up. That's not the mission of any law enforcement officer I have ever met. It just isn't. Officers genuinely come into this career field because they want to help people and they want to help their community, and that is their goal. And sometimes we even need to remind ourselves we need to respect and love our community, no matter what. Even if they're not showing it back, we need to do that too."
How is your recovery?
"I'm good. I have issues with my lower back. I still have the bullet in my back. I still have -- I’ve got a laundry list of medical stuff. It would take me forever to talk about. I do have some functional issues with my left leg, my left hip. Sheriff Elder has been amazing. He decided that -- early on, he approached me and said, 'If you keep on fighting, I'm going to keep on fighting for you, and I'm going to make sure that you are going to be a part of this family.' So I told him OK, and I accepted that, and I accepted the challenge, and I may not have all the same duties I had before, but I'm still a sworn peace officer, and I'm still going to help my community and use the training that I was provided by this office to help give back to everybody here that helped me out when I needed it."
Because of how traumatic that day was, did you ever think you wouldn't come back?
"Absolutely. That was a huge worry. Any time an officer is injured, the national normal for right now is for officers to be either medically retired or medically released from duty. Some agencies just release people, will offer you a chance to apply for a civilian job, or they say, 'Thanks for your service, see you later.' That absolutely scared me. How am I going to provide for my family? How am I going to make sure I have food on my table? How am I going to make sure my house payment is paid? I've met officers who are going through that currently. I've met officers who have lost their families over it. I've met officers who unfortunately took their own lives because of it. Sheriff Elder wanted to make sure that didn't happen to me. He made sure I was taken care of and always had a home here.
"I can't even describe how thankful I am to that."
Where do you go from here?
"My overall goal is to continue to be an investigator and to help out with whatever I can, do whatever I can. Whether that be working in detectives, working with the task force as surveillance, or working even -- even if I've got to sit behind a computer and operate a drone, I'll do whatever I can to continue the mission of the office."
Grandfather killed in the line of duty
"I'm actually third generation law enforcement. My grandfather was actually a New Orleans police officer who was killed in the line of duty. My father was actually a sergeant with our office. And now I work for this office. This is my home, law enforcement is my home and my family."