Self-Defense Or Murder? Denver Man Arrested In Shooting Death Of Suspected Car Robber

Police said Brice Fitch was a victim of car robbery. But when the alleged thief turned up dead, investigators made the 24-year-old a murder suspect. 

By Dorian Geiger
Brice Fitch

It was around 4 a.m. when Brice Fitch called police to report a failed car robbery at his Colorado home. But the next day, the 24-year-old was behind bars, accused of gunning down the alleged thief with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

Fitch was arrested on charges of first-degree murder last week, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com.  

In the wee morning hours of April 19, the Denver man told authorities he let his dogs outside, but noticed something askew: his vehicle’s lights were on and its door was ajar. He was being robbed. 

"Hey, get out of my car,” Fitch yelled, according to the arrest affidavit.

He then went inside and retrieved his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and approached the suspects' vehicle. Fitch told police he observed a man and a woman in the front seat of Dodge Charger sedan. The driver reportedly reached for his console and swerved at Fitch, who let off a shot. Fitch told police his finger was on the trigger—and that he fired by accident. 

The sedan stopped mid-street, and Fitch, who told authorities he feared the vehicle would reverse and retaliate, fired two more shots at the back of the Dodge. 

“The victim stated that he shot two more times because he feared that they were coming back to cause him harm,” the arrest affidavit added. 

When police arrived, the street was littered with broken glass. Investigators located three shell casings from a .223 AR-15. Fitch was taken to the hospital for minor injuries. 

But around 1 p.m. the same day, police in Aurora found a man who had been shot inside a Dodge Charger with a shattered back window. He was pronounced dead on scene. The man was later identified as 26-year-old Guillermo Medrano-Sandoval, according to the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner. Police said “a single perforated gunshot to the chest” killed him.

Fitch was arrested late the following afternoon. 

“Legally, you’re not allowed to use deadly force to defend your car, you can’t do that,” William Gaines, a former police officer, criminologist and lecturer at the Metropolitan State University of Denver told Oxygen.com

“You can’t use deadly force to defend property. ... It’s just property,” he added.

Gaines said that Colorado’s Make My Day legislation, which allows homeowners to “protect their property from within their dwelling” and shoot intruders in self-defense if they believe they’re at risk of serious bodily harm, doesn’t apply here since Fitch was outside his home.

Gaines said that investigators were likely pursuing first-degree murder charges as opposed to manslaughter because of the two additional shots Fitch fired after the initial gunshot. Fitch told investigators he shot once at the vehicle accidentally, and two more times out of fear for his life. But Gaines said it could be difficult to prove self-defense in this case, particularly since the vehicle had already partially fled the scene. Fitch, Gains said, doesn’t appear to have been in immediate danger, and that the final two shots he fired could constitute premeditated intent to kill. 

Fitch is currently being held without bond and appeared in court on April 22. He doesn’t have a prior criminal record, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation

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