Douglas County, CO – A retired police officer used an AR-15 to stop a gunman who had been shooting at passing cars on July 2.
The incident began when police received a call about a carjacking after 28-year-old Austin Benson stole a blue Mazda hatchback in El Paso County, KUSA reported.
Benson drove the car up to Rampart Range Road where he began shooting at random passing vehicles, KOAA reported.
Douglas County deputies interviewed numerous people who told them they’d been shot at from the Mazda, which was running on only three tires.
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, KRDO reported.
But when the Good Samaritans who stopped to help him saw he was carrying a gun, they sped away.
Authorities said Benson got back into his car and drove further up Rampart Range Road where he encountered two other victims whom he threatened with a pistol, KRDO reported.
The second victim told police that Benson shot in his direction. The third victim said Benson tried to fire his gun at him but the weapon did not discharge, according to KRDO.
However, one couple camping with their grandchildren told deputies that they’d had to duck when Benson shot at their truck, KOAA reported.
Benson’s shooting spree ended shortly after he targeted a campsite at Devils Head Campground that belonged to retired Russellville, Alabama police officer Wesley Mattox , KUSA reported.
The retired 51-year-old officer told authorities that he was camping in Pike National Forest with his wife when Benson pulled into their campsite and began yelling.
Mattox told Douglas County deputies that when he approached the Mazda to find out what the man wanted, Benson pointed a rifle at him and told him to “get him water” and said "the law was after him," KOAA reported.
The former officer said he returned to his camper and gave his wife a handgun, and told her to take cover, KUSA reported. Then he grabbed an AR-15 rifle for himself.
Mattox told deputies that he took up a position behind the Mazda and ordered Benson to drop his weapon, but Benson shot at him and his camper as he began to drive away. Mattox returned fire.
The former officer told deputies that during the gunfight, he moved away from his truck to direct Benson’s fire away from his camper, where his wife was hiding, KOAA reported.
Benson drove into a tree, but then fired a few more rounds at Mattox.
Mattox told deputies that he believed he was out of ammunition in his rifle, so he went into his truck and grabbed a second AR-15.
According to the arrest affidavit for Benson, Mattox said he fired one more shot at the Mazda to see if he would get a reaction because he didn’t see any movement inside the car, KUSA reported.
About that time, Manitou Springs police officers arrived at the campsite and arrested Benson.
Police said Benson had been shot several times and had wounds to his face and his arm, KUSA reported.
Manitou Springs police said they found a loaded pistol in Benson’s car when they took him into custody.
Neither Mattox nor his wife were injured during the incident, according to KUSA.
Benson was arrested and charged with six counts of attempted first-degree murder, and one count of attempted aggravated robbery.
Prior to this multi-county crime spree, court records showed that Benson had only been arrested once before in Colorado, KUSA reported. He was arrested in 2008 for obstructing a Denver police officer and possession of drug paraphernalia.