Police say Aurora officer shot in the face narrowly avoided death

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AURORA | An Aurora police officer shot in the face Tuesday by a murder suspect in Denver narrowly avoided being killed, police Chief Nick Metz said Wednesday.

“We feel very blessed that he is going to survive, and we feel very blessed that we are not planning a funeral,” Metz said.

The officer, a 13-year-veteran whose name was not released, was shot while was responding Tuesday to a home in Denver’s Montbello neighborhood in search of a man suspected in an earlier Aurora slaying.

Three other Aurora officers returned fire and killed the murder suspect who had shot the officer, police said.

The incident started with a fatal shooting Tuesday morning outside an apartment complex at 142 Del Mar Circle.

Police said, in that case, a man was gunned down in the parking lot west of an apartment building.

The Araoahoe County coroner’s office identified the man Wednesday as 35-year-old Antonio Norwood. He died of multiple gunshot wounds, the coroner said.

Witnesses gave police a description of the suspect’s vehicle as well as the license plate number and the direction the suspect fled after the shooting.

Aurora officers tracked the suspect’s vehicle to a home at 14572 E. 46th Ave. in northeast Denver.

In coordination with Denver officers, Aurora police in an unmarked car approached the home, said Denver police Lt. Matt Clark.

As they approached, a man walked out of the home carrying a baby in a baby carrier and placed the baby in a vehicle, Clark said.

The man, either recognizing the unmarked vehicle as police or spotting a nearby Denver police officer in uniform, started firing on the officers, Clark said.

Aurora officers fired from their vehicle, and the Denver officer, who was outside his car, returned fire as well, he said.

At some point during the exchange of gunfire, the Aurora officer driving the unmarked car was stuck in the cheek by gunfire.

The officers knew there was a baby in the nearby car, Clark said, so they were careful not to fire toward that vehicle.

One of the officers struck the man and he fell to the ground. Medical personnel later pronounced the suspect dead at the scene.

Clark said nearby Denver officers then put the wounded Aurora officer in a Denver police vehicle and rushed him to University of Colorado Hospital.

Metz said that quick response might have saved the officer’s life.

“It just shows that the relationship between the Aurora Police Department and the Denver Police Department is a very strong and solid one,” he said.

Metz showed a picture of the officer’s wound, which revealed that the bullet stuck him not far from his nose and eye. Had the bullet hit him a half-inch in another direction, the officer could have been killed, Metz said.

Police have said the officer is in stable condition.

As for the suspect, Clark said the Denver coroner will release his identity later in the day.

The man has a criminal record including arrests for assault and robbery, Clark said, but his rap sheet isn’t especially long.

Metz said the wounded Aurora officer has received several awards for his service, including for responding to an active shooter situation in 2011.