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911 Operator Allegedly Cited Open-Carry Law and Refused to Send Cops Before Colorado Shooting Spree

Three people were killed after a 911 dispatcher in Colorado Springs reportedly told a caller it was perfectly legal for her neighbor to be brandishing an AR-15 assault rifle.

by VICE News
Nov 3 2015, 8:55pm

Noah Harpham's mugshot. (Photo via Reuters/El Paso County Sheriff's Department)

Moments before a man went on a shooting rampage in Colorado over the weekend, his neighbor reportedly called 911 to report that he appeared to be distressed and was brandishing an AR-15 assault rifle. But instead of sending the cops, the dispatcher allegedly told the caller that it's perfectly legal under state law to openly carry firearms in public.

The man, identified as 33-year-old Noah Harpham, gunned down two people on Saturday morning before police in Colorado Springs arrived on the scene. Harpham claimed one other victim before he was killed in a shootout with police. Authorities are not releasing the tape of the 911 call placed by Harpham's neighbor Naomi Bettis, and it's unclear whether the dispatcher ignored a reasonable report of suspicious behavior.

Bettis told the Washington Post that she called 911 on Saturday morning to report her neighbor, who was standing in his yard holding a rifle.

"I couldn't tell if it was real or not, it being Halloween day, you know," Bettis said. "But that's what I told her, and all of a sudden she started saying something about— I don't remember what they call it — open arms… and she said, you know, we have that law here. And it just kind of blew me away, like she didn't believe me or something."

Related: Police Kill Gunman After Shooting Spree That Left Three Dead in Colorado

The dispatcher was apparently referencing Colorado's lax open-carry laws, which allow citizens to carry assault rifles and other firearms in public without a permit. In other words, Harpham's behavior was legal right up until the moment he opened fire on random people on the street.

Bettis told the Denver Post that, aside from the assault rifle Harpham was toting, her neighbor's physical appearance prior the shooting gave her pause. "He did have a distraught look on his face," Bettis said. "It looked like he had a rough couple days or so." After she heard shots ring out nearby, Bettis called 911 again.

Evidence has since surfaced that suggests Harpham was deeply disturbed. He had a history of substance abuse, and he posted a strange YouTube video in the day before the shooting where he rambles about God and mind control.

Witnesses described Harpham as being composed and relaxed, even as he walked through his neighborhood executing people. "It looked totally random," neighbor Matthew Abshire told the Washington Post. "He walked calmly and collectedly. His demeanor was like he was having a stroll in the park."

Related: You Might Need a Background Check to Buy Bullets in California After Next Year

On Monday evening, authorities identified the shooting victims as Andrew Alan Myers, 35, Jennifer Michelle Vasquez, 42, and Christina Rose Baccus-Gallela, 34. Vazquez and Baccus-Gallela were both mothers. Witnesses said Myers, who was out riding his bicycle, begged for his life before Harpham shot him. Colorado Springs police arrived on the scene and fatally shot Harpham just seven minutes later.

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