Authorities have identified a man who was shot and killed early Wednesday, an incident that prompted the closure of U.S. Highway 550 near the Colorado-New Mexico line as law enforcement searched for the suspected shooter.
La Plata County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Chris Burke said previously a deputy was contacted by a male and a female during the early morning hours Wednesday on the side of the southbound lane of Highway 550.
The male had suffered a gunshot wound, Burke said. Despite the efforts of the deputy and the medical units, he died from his injuries.
La Plata County Coroner Jann Smith identified the man as 30-year-old Johnathan Nichols of Durango. She said next of kin has been notified.
An autopsy was performed Thursday morning, Smith said, which confirmed Nichols died as a result of a gunshot wound to the chest. The time of death is listed around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, she said.
Burke did not return a call seeking updated information Thursday. He said previously a person of interest had been detained, but he declined to release further details.
Nichols had worked at 4 Corners Roofing and Sheet Metal since 2012, said Darren Tripp, manager of the company. Tripp said Nichols had just turned 30 years old.
“He was a really good kid,” Tripp said. “He was a good hand, a good worker.”
Tripp said Nichols was originally from Washington state and didn’t have family in the Durango area.
“He was very much a loner,” Tripp said. “He had a couple of dogs he loved that went everywhere with him. ... We were his family, basically. We all took care of each other.”
Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Lisa Schwantes said the road was closed around 1 a.m. as authorities responded to the scene between mile markers 1 and 3.
By about 2:30 a.m., the highway had reopened, she said.