Manuel Zetina had a middling criminal record but big ambitions to climb the ranks of a local Mexican street gang.
Zetina, 19, was killed in a gunbattle with Colorado Springs police and El Paso County sheriff’s deputies Monday. The firefight also claimed the life of Deputy Micah Flick and wounded three other officers and a bystander.
A Facebook page apparently belonging to Zetina shows a young man steeped in gang culture.
“I bang dat Big Bad Soldados 13 Gang,” Zetina bragged on Facebook, using slang for gang affiliation.
While specifics on the gang Zetina referenced remain unclear, it appears to be a branch of the loosely-affiliated Sureños. That group pays homage to the Mexican Mafia and uses the number 13 as a reference to M, the 13th letter of the alphabet, to show its allegiance. Other Sureños groups in Colorado Springs commonly call members “soldados,” the Spanish word for soldiers.
Investigators haven’t released details on the case and wouldn’t discuss Zetina on Wednesday.
Colorado Springs police Lt. Howard Black said details were still being gathered.
“We’re still doing interviews,” he said.
Zetina on Monday was targeted by a regional auto theft task force as part of a crackdown on prolific car thieves in Colorado Springs. While not revealing case details, Black did comment on the significance of the task force involvement.
“They are not going after low-level car thieves,” Black said. “They are going after people who have multiple, multiple thefts.”
Officers attempted to arrest him in the parking lot of an apartment complex at Galley Road and Murray Boulevard when police say he pulled a gun and began firing.
Before Monday’s gunbattle, however, Zetina didn’t have an extensive criminal record. Court records show in 2016 he was cited for possessing drug paraphernalia and a small amount of marijuana — illegal for minors.
Zetina was fined $238.
In January, Colorado Springs police ticketed Zetina for driving without a license, having no insurance and using a phony license plate. Proceedings in that case were set for April.
Born in Washington and raised in Peyton, the 19-year-old covered his social media page with pictures of himself flashing gang signs or wearing gang-oriented clothing.
Nicknamed “Grumpy,” Zetina was spotted by police in a stolen car near the Murray Hill Apartments, police said. Police had been keeping an eye on the area after five car thefts were reported in the past month.
Colorado Springs police said the auto theft task force waited to arrest Zetina, planning to capture him in the parking lot.
It remains unclear how the attempted arrest turned into one of the bloodiest incidents in local police history.
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