Guthrie deputies hit by friendly fire in Stuart shoot out

Suspect faces attempted murder charges

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Numerous bullet holes pock the walls of the house at 615 S.W. Seventh St., #1, in Stuart, where a shootout occurred Oct. 17. Photo courtesy Mary Little-Van Eaton

Randall Lee Comly, 52, of 615 S.W. Seventh St., #1, Stuart, was charged Tuesday with two counts of attempt to commit murder on a peace officer in connection with the shoot out and 90-minute stand off Oct. 17.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Investigators with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) now believe the Guthrie County Deputy Sheriffs shot in Thursday night’s gunfight in Stuart were struck by friendly fire.

Randall Lee Comly, 52, of 615 S.W. Seventh St., #1, Stuart, was charged Tuesday with two counts of attempt to commit murder on a peace officer in connection with the shoot out and 90-minute stand off Oct. 17.

According to court records, Comly allegedly discharged all six rounds from his pistol when he sprang from a closet in which he was hiding, firing at Guthrie County Deputy Kent Gries and Stuart Police Officer Tyler DeFrancisco, who had entered the apartment to serve a warrant to Comly.

None of the rounds discharged by Comly struck a peace officer, according to the DCI.

“Comly charged Officers Gries and DeFransico and fired the handgun multiple times at the officers, nearly striking them,” according to court records. “Comly fired a total of six rounds, the maximum capacity of the handgun, in the direction of Deputy Gries and Officer DeFransico.”

While Gries and DeFrancisco were inside the apartment, Guthrie County Deputy Jim Mink and Guthrie County Deputy Steven Henry were securing the perimeter of the property outside the residence, and Mink and Henry were stuck by gunfire that exited from inside the apartment.

According to the DCI statement issued Tuesday, “Preliminary investigation suggests the gunfire that struck Deputy Mink and Deputy Henry may have been fired by law enforcement officers inside the apartment as they returned fire on Randall Comly.”

Ballistic testing into exactly who fired the rounds that stuck the officers might take several weeks to complete, according to the DCI.

The incident began about 10:40 p.m. Oct. 17 when the law enforcement officers knocked on the door of the Stuart residence, according to court records. The door was answered by a male named Joseph Reynolds, who confirmed that Comly was inside the apartment.

A female named Ashley Richards was also found to be inside the home during the shooting, according to court records.

Court records indicate Deputies Gries and Mink and Officer DeFransico “entered the apartment” and “made several announcements, asking Comly by name to come out and show himself to law enforcement.”

The officers narrowed their search to “a closed closet door in the bedroom,” and they “gave verbal commands for the person inside the closet to exit with no response.” Then “Comly abruptly opened the door, wielding a handgun.”

Comly sustained a gunshot wound to the arm. All the injured were transported to Des Moines hospitals.

A resident of Stuart who claimed to have first-hand knowledge of the incident said the suspect might have attempted suicide.

“When his son answered the door, he did tell the officers Comly was in the closet with a gun,” the source claimed. “He was going to shoot himself in the head, but he couldn’t pull the trigger, so he tried to go out by suicide by cop.”

This source’s claims have not been confirmed by law enforcement authorities.

*A criminal charge is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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