‘Emperor’ gunman left bizarre trail
Vail, CO Colorado
DENVER ” When an armed man wearing a tuxedo and claiming to the “emperor” of the state was shot dead at the Capitol, police had just been warned to be on the look out for him.
Aaron Snyder, a 32-year-old trained as an engineer, had left a trail of bizarre behavior along the Front Range Monday, prompting police to issue an alert for departments along Interstate 25, including Denver. That bulletin came 15 minutes before he was shot three times by a state trooper outside the governor’s office,
Denver police chief Gerry Whitman said Tuesday.
Snyder started Monday by reporting to his internship position at an energy company in Fort Collins and sent an e-mail to a co-worker saying that God had made him “the emperor, the sovereign ruler of this nation.” It closed with the line “With love in Jesus Christ” and was signed Aaron Aurelius Ricardus Constantinus.
Officials at Advanced Energy later told police he was there at 9 a.m. but may have left without notifying anyone.
Around 10 a.m., Snyder showed up at a store in Northglenn wanting to rent a tuxedo right away for an event he was going to attend in Denver, according to a police report. He told the woman who fitted him at Mister Neat’s Tuxedos that “I will reign” and “The emperor was coming”.
She noticed he had both a gun and a knife in his pockets and, when the fitting took longer than normal, she said he began to sweat profusely and seemed nervous.
That prompted her to report the encounter to police, who responded to the store at about 11:30 a.m. An officer then contacted Snyder’s mother, Kathie, who said he had been diagnosed as “delusional”, was being treated by a psychiatrist and had become upset a few days before by something minor that had happened at home. She couldn’t recall what.
Both the officer and the mother were unable to reach Snyder by cell phone. The officer also contacted Advanced Energy after learning that’s where he worked and warned Fort Collins police about Snyder.
An alert about Snyder was sent out at 1:45 p.m., requesting that police officers along Colorado’s main north-south highway watch out for him so they could check his well being but exercise caution because of the weapons.
At around 2 p.m., Snyder entered the reception area of the governor’s office, declaring that “I am the emperor and I’m here to take over state government”. State troopers were able to escort him out to the hallway but after a confrontation he was shot twice in the chest and once in the head by trooper Jay Hemphill.
Snyder had flashed a .357 handgun from under his jacket and advanced toward Hemphill. Hemphill fired after Snyder twice ignored warnings that Hemphill would fire if didn’t stay back, Whitman said.
“The trooper did exactly what he was trained to do to protect himself,” Whitman said.
The events shocked neighbors of the quiet suburban neighborhood where Snyder lived with his parents in a neat, two-story house with a three-car garage.
Snyder attended CSU off-and-on over a 14-year period through last fall but left soon after beginning work on a master’s degree in electrical engineering, university spokeswoman Dell Rae Moellenberg said.
Neighbor Doug Egge, a software consultant, said Snyder was a “nice kid” who was quiet and reserved and quickly picked up computer programming concepts when he sought help from Egge. But he also said sometimes it also seemed like Snyder was “in his own little world” as he smoked outside his family’s house.
Egge said something seemed to have changed with Snyder in the last six months and Snyder hadn’t been approaching him to talk about computers.
Neighbor Mary Annunziato said Snyder was “not well”, declining to elaborate, but said he was kind and loving and had talked about pursuing a PhD. She remembered how he helped dig out a FedEx truck stranded in a snow and ice pile following December’s blizzards and tutored fellow college students.
“That person that went to the Capitol was not the person I knew and cared about,” she said.
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