A Colorado man accused of using an AK-47 to kill a woman and injure her boyfriend while they were walking their dog has been convicted of first degree murder and attempted murder.
Jurors found Michael Close, 38, had an argument with Isabella Thallas, 21, and Darian Simon as they encouraged their dog to relieve himself outside Close’s Denver Ball Park apartment on June 10, 2020.
During the trial, prosecutors told jurors Close shouted out the window at the couple as they urged the dog to ‘potty’ before grabbing the gun he had taken from a friend – a sergeant from the Denver police.
Prosecutors said he fired 24 times. Thallas was shot in the back and died instantly; Simon, 29, was shot twice. He fled the scene until he collapsed nearby.
Close had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, Denver District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Carolyn A. Tyler told USA TODAY on Friday.
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Close’s public defender Sonja Prins said Close suffered a mental breakdown, saying an abusive childhood, a series of job losses, a breakup and the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to her poor mental health. at the time of the shooting.
The jury, which deliberated for less than a day, also convicted Close of assault, Tyler said.
As the verdict was read, Close and Thallas’s family members wept, the Denver Post reported.
Isabella Thallas’ mother, Anna Thallas, the outlet reported, said she felt numb.
“We’ve been waiting for this day for 2 and a half years and what happened there has passed…almost as quickly as my daughter was shot,” she said. “And our lives were changed forever.”
Close had removed the firearm without permission from the home of former Denver police officer Sgt. Dan Politica of the Denver Police Department told USA TODAY.
Politica, who resigned from the department on March 13, 2021, told investigators his rifle may have been used in the incident after learning he was missing, police said.
The rifle was privately owned — not issued by the Denver Police Department — and is not approved for in-service use, the department said.
A confession and a walk in the mountains
After the shooting, Close called his ex-girlfriend and confessed he had just “killed two people,” the Post reported.
He then left his apartment and headed west into the mountains with both the AK-47 and a pistol. He was pulled over and arrested that evening along a county highway.
Online court information shows Close is slated for sentencing Nov. 4 in Denver District Court.
Contributor: Associated Press.
Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.