Denver man used AK-47 to kill woman walking dog with her boyfriend. Jury convicts him of murder

A Colorado man accused of using an AK-47 to kill a woman and wound her boyfriend as they walked their dog has been convicted of first-degree murder and attempted murder. 

Jurors found Michael Close, 38, got into an argument with Isabella Thallas, 21, and Darian Simon as they encouraged their dog to relieve itself outside Close’s Denver Ball park-area apartment June 10, 2020.

During the trial, prosecutors told jurors Close yelled out the window at the couple as they urged the dog to “go potty” before grabbing the gun, he took from a friend – a Denver police sergeant.

Prosecutors said he fired 24 times. Thallas was hit in the back and died instantly; Simon, 29, was shot twice. He ran from the scene until he collapsed not far away.

Close had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, Denver District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Carolyn A. Tyler told USA TODAY Friday.

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Close’s public defender, Sonja Prins, said Close had suffered a mental break, saying an abusive childhood, a string of job losses, a breakup and the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to his poor mental health at the time of the shooting.

The jury, which deliberated for less than a day, also convicted Close of assault, Tyler said. 

As the verdict was read, Close and members of Thallas’ family cried, The Denver Post reported. 

Isabella Thallas’ mother Anna Thallas, the outlet reported, said she felt numb.

“We’ve been waiting 2½ years for this day and what happened in there just went by … almost as fast as my daughter was slaughtered,” she said. “And our lives were changed forever.”

Close had removed the firearm without permission from the home of former Denver Police officer Sgt. Dan Politica, the Denver Police Department told USA TODAY. 

Politica, who resigned from the department March 13, 2021, notified investigators his rifle may have been used in the incident after he learned it was missing, police said.

The rifle was privately-owned – not issued by the Denver Police Department – and is not approved for on-duty use, the department said.

A confession and a drive into the mountains

After the shooting, Close called his ex-girlfriend and confessed that he’d “just killed two people,” the Post ported.

He then left his apartment and drove west into the mountains with both the AK-47 and a pistol. He was stopped and arrested that evening along a county highway.

Online court information shows Close is set for sentencing on Nov. 4. in Denver District Court.

Contributing: The Associated Press.

Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at nalund@usatoday.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.