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One of five Denver officers shot in New Year's Eve incident is from Minnesota

Tom O’Donnell

One of five law enforcement officers shot while responding to a disturbance at an apartment complex near Denver on New Year's Eve has ties to the area.

Tom O'Donnell, 41, spent a few hours in the hospital after being wounded during the incident on Sunday, Dec. 31, in a Denver suburb. O'Donnell, who grew up in Underwood, Minn., and graduated from Bemidji State University, is a deputy with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.

O'Donnell was one of four deputies who were injured; one of his fellow officers was killed.

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock described the shooting as "an ambush-type attack on our officers," by a gunman, according to the Washington Post..

"I do know that all of them were shot very, very quickly," Spurlock said at a news conference. "And they all went down almost within seconds of each other . . . He knew we were coming. We obviously let him know that we were there to investigate a disturbance."

Officials identified the suspect at Matthew Riehl, 37, a military veteran who had posted videos online criticizing the local sheriff and the police, according to news reports. Officials said that he was known to police, but it was not clear if he had a criminal history.

Riehl's Facebook page was filled with images associated with the alt-right, a conservative movement that has been associated with racist hostility, according to USA Today. The University of Wyoming, where Riehl studied law, has been investigating rants he made against the school for months, and he took rifle classes in Colorado over the summer, the newspaper reported.

Sheriff's deputies were first called to the apartment at 3 a.m., when a man told officers that his roommate was acting bizarrely and might be having a mental breakdown. The sheriff's office said the officers left less than an hour later after determining that no one had committed a crime.

Deputies were called again shortly after 5 a.m. Four deputies who arrived within minutes of each other went inside after the suspect's roommate, who had left the apartment, went back and gave the officers a key to get in, according to the sheriff's office.

The deputies were shot minutes later as the gunman barricaded himself inside a bedroom, Spurlock said.

A SWAT team went inside the apartment around 7:30 a.m., the sheriff's office said. The suspect was shot and killed, while an officer from another police department was injured during an exchange of gunfire.

O'Donnell's family confirmed to WDAY TV that he was shot in the knee, but is now OK.

The family wishes to maintain its privacy and declined further comment.

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