Some human behaviors are inscrutable. There’s no rational explanation to explain why 28-year-old Austin Benson would steal a car and then drive off into the mountains, only to begin randomly shooting at passing cars and others who tried to help. Yet it is easy to understand how the shooting-spree came to an end. Benson met a retired cop who was armed and ready.
The incident began on July 2, in rural Colorado. Benson stole a Mazda hatchback and drove into the mountains. When the car was reported stolen, police began looking for it. Yet Benson was in a remote area that wasn’t heavily trafficked.
What happened next is unclear, but Benson’s stolen car had trouble, and lost a tire. He then pulled over and began shooting at people who happened to drive by with a pistol.
“The first victim told deputies that a white male between 20 and 30 years old flagged down their car as they passed. He was standing next to a Mazda with one flat tire,” Blue Lives Matter writes.
When the people stopped, they saw that Benson was holding a gun. They then drove away.
Benson then drove farther down the road, and began shooting at cars. A second witness said Benson fired at him. A third said Benson tried to fire at him, but was having trouble with the gun which had jammed.
“However, one couple camping with their grandchildren told deputies that they’d had to duck when Benson shot at their truck,” BLM notes.
Benson ended up in a campsite at Devils Head Campground. There he met retired Russellville, Alabama police officer Wesley Mattox. The 51-year-old was camping in Pike National Forest with his wife. When the couple heard yelling, Mattox went to see what was wrong.
As Mattox approached the Mazda, Benson demanded that the man “get him water.” Benson pointed a rifle at Mattox, and said “the law was after him.”
Mattox didn’t panic. Instead he went back to his camper, presumably to get water. Instead he gave his wife a pistol and he picked up an AR-15.
Mattox then took cover behind the Mazda and demanded that Benson give himself up. Benson, though, would not. He fired at the camper and attempted to drive off. He hit a tree. He then fired more shots at Mattox, who was returning fire.
When he’d emptied his rifle, Mattox ran to his truck to grab another. He watched the car for a time, and saw no movement, but fired one more round to see if he could detect any movement.
Manitou Springs police officers shortly after. The approached the vehicle and found Benson inside with wounds to his face and arm. He was arrested. He has been charged with six counts of attempted first-degree murder, and one count of attempted aggravated robbery.
Both Mattox and his wife escaped injury.
Why Benson did what he did remains a mystery. His previous history is little indication. “He was arrested in 2008 for obstructing a Denver police officer and possession of drug paraphernalia,” BLM notes.