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Police Open Fire on SUV Killing the Driver and Injuring the Passenger in a Case of Mistaken Identity

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Police officers were monitoring activity at an address associated with a man wanted for attempted murder. When they spotted an SUV circling the area, and believed they saw the suspect in the passenger seat, they sprang into action. While pursuing the vehicle, a high-speed chase ensued. Once the SUV stopped, things got messy.

The incident happened in Denver on Monday. Local law enforcement was looking for Mauricio Venzor-Gonzalez, a man suspected of attempted murder. They believed Venzor-Gonzalez was in the SUV as a passenger, leading them to try and stop the vehicle.

The SUV fled the scene, leading to a high-speed chase. The chase came to an end, and police officers attempted to apprehend the men in the vehicle.

The two men in the SUV, Steven Nguyen and Rafael Landeros, refused to raise their hands, according to a report by the Daily Mail. Police stated that the men began “moving around, looking for something,” concluding that the pair were trying to find a gun.

Police officers opened fire on the SUV.

Nguyen was killed during the incident and Landeros, who was shot, was taken to the hospital for treatment and then later held on warrants from another county.

Law enforcement officers were looking for Venzor-Gonzalez, 23, who had escaped from Denver Health Medical Center on early on Monday. He is facing charges of attempted murder on a police officer from an incident in November involving a shootout that ensued after a traffic stop.

Police believed Venzor-Gonzalez was the passenger in the SUV and were aware of the charges he faced.

“So, fearing their safety, officers fired,” said Denver Police Commander Barb Carver while discussing Monday’s incident.

After the SUV stopped, “officers continued to see the occupants moving around inside, still looking for something, and so again they fired at the vehicle,” Carver added.

“The officers were acting on information provided to them that Venzor-Gonzalez was in the passenger seat,” she said. “They believed that to be him.”

Carver also asserted that Venzor-Gonzalez’s criminal history “justifies their actions.”

Police did find a loaded handgun in the SUV and determined the vehicle was stolen.

Officers were wearing body cameras during the incident, though the footage has not been released.

The incident is being investigated by members of the Aurora Police Department and the Denver District Attorney’s Office as well as a civilian-led agency, the Independent Monitor.

All three officers involved in the shooting were taken off patrol duty while the incident is being examined.