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1 deputy dead, 2 injured in Colo. shooting

Posted: 1:01 PM, Feb 24, 2016
Updated: 2016-02-24 18:43:05-05

BAILEY, Colo. (AP) — A man who spent years fighting the foreclosure of his Colorado home and ranted online about police and corporate corruption shot three law enforcement officers trying to serve an eviction notice Wednesday, killing one and wounding the others, authorities said.

The officers fired back in this forested mountain community, killing the gunman. One of the wounded officers underwent surgery for life-threatening injuries, and the other suffered less serious injuries, Colorado Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Susan Medina said.

The man opened fire with a rifle after the deputies from the Park County Sheriff's Office went to the snow-covered two-story home in a hillside neighborhood north of the town of Bailey. The well-maintained houses sit on big lots, with room for horses to graze in an area popular with hunters and anglers.

The shooter was Martin Wirth, a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation said. Wirth owned the home until March 2014, when Fannie Mae took ownership, according to the Park County Assessor's Office.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to release information about the investigation.

After Wirth lost a court battle over his foreclosure, he sued Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, the state attorney general and a judge in 2013. The federal lawsuit claimed that state foreclosure laws were unconstitutional and that Wirth and his unnamed guests were "in imminent danger of being wrongfully deprived of home and property while also being threatened with an armed and forcible entry onto the property and into the home."

He asked a federal judge to block Park County from selling his home, evicting him or forcibly entering the house and to strike down several state laws. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit last September.

A website by a group called the Colorado Foreclosure Resistance Coalition includes undated posts that called for supporters to join Wirth in "non-violent eviction resistance." The website includes a video of a man identified as Wirth railing against mortgage companies as criminals.

A call to the group, whose website says it is part of the Occupy movement, was not immediately returned.

Wirth ran for the state Senate in 2014 as a Green Party candidate but lost to an incumbent Republican. In a questionnaire to candidates by The Denver Post, Wirth wrote of corruption in the political system, his support for Colorado's marijuana laws and the plight of the poor.

When asked whether he supported the death penalty, Wirth wrote, "Killing people to show that killing people is wrong is a piece of idiotic hypocrisy."

He wrote disparagingly of police, the federal government and corporations on his candidate page on Facebook and praised former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked millions of documents about government surveillance. He made regular posts criticizing leading presidential candidates from both parties.

Neighbor Terry Rogers, a counselor and pastor at Platte Canyon Community Church, said he did not know Wirth well and believes no one in the area did.

"He was pretty reclusive," said Rogers, who could see law enforcement vehicles responding to the shooting across a snow-covered pasture from his driveway.

The area of rocky, pine-covered hills is about 45 miles southwest of Denver where several camps host Girl Scouts and other youth during the summer. The neighborhood is several miles outside Bailey, a hamlet of just a few restaurants and shops.

There, a gunman took several girls hostage in a high school classroom a decade ago, killing one before himself.

Sam Lung, who lives nearby, said he often hears gunshots in the area, which has a target practice site.

He said people often shoot in their backyards, "practicing their Second Amendment rights." He said he did not hear the gunshots Wednesday.

Authorities have not identified the deputies. The officer who was killed served 10 years on the force, Medina said.

"It is a dark day," she said.