In his senior year at Colorado State University, as part of an internship application, Finnegan Daly sat down to list his goals for the future.
He wanted to travel abroad, land a job as a financial adviser and buy a house. Three to five years down the road, he hoped to run a marathon, become a certified financial planner and start a family. “He was serious and driven with a gifted mind,” said Regina Daly, his mother.
Two days before the 2018 spring semester started, he died from a gunshot wound at an off-campus house.
Does this kind of in-depth journalism matter to you? Make more of it possible with a Colorado Sun membership, starting at just $5 a month.
Fort Collins police ruled Daly’s death accidental and closed the case two months later without it ever drawing public attention. But his family didn’t believe investigators. They discovered a key piece of evidence police overlooked: a photo posted to Snapchat taken before the 21-year-old died that put the gun that killed him in a roommate’s hand.
The revelation cast the entire case in doubt, exposing what the family says was an investigation marked by discrepancies and oversights. But now, after a rare move to reopen the case, prosecutors are pursuing three criminal charges against Colemann Carver, the roommate who owned the gun.
Carver, now 22, is not suspected of shooting his roommate, but is accused of weapons charges and tampering with evidence, all three of which could lead to time behind bars. He is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.
Much of the case — and even what led investigators to make the arrest — remains shrouded in mystery with records suppressed or missing. In the void, the situation raises questions for the family about the strength of Colorado’s gun laws and whether they should have prevented the tragedy.
Carver had four guns at the time of the shooting: a military-style AR-15 carbine, a Remington pump-action shotgun, a Springfield .45-caliber handgun and a Glock 34 9 mm semi-automatic handgun with a mounted flashlight and 17-round magazine. The bullet that killed Daly came from the Glock 34.
In addition to her questions about the investigation, Regina Daly said the case is “about the 100 people that die everyday and enforcing the gun laws,” she said. If there were no guns in the house, she said, her son would be alive.
Tequila shots and guns mark the night Finn Daly was shot
Hours before he died, Finn Daly arrived at his mother’s home in Westminster. It was a Saturday evening and she didn’t expect him. But Carver, his roommate and friend, dropped Daly off on the way to the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver.
Daly went out with his brother for a while but returned home and played chess with his mother before she went to bed. Carver retrieved Daly later, and the roommates returned to their place at 2524 Romeldale Lane in Fort Collins near midnight. They shared the split-level home three miles southwest of Colorado State’s campus with at least three college-age women.
Daly planned to start the spring semester of his final year in college on the following Tuesday. The double major in business and political science still needed an internship to graduate, but his mother expected him to finish in the summer. Carver, then 20, didn’t attend college. He had moved to Fort Collins in September to escape small-town Cortez and began work at his uncle’s landscaping and plowing company.
What is known about what happened next is derived from Carver’s multiple statements to police documented on video and in reports from the January 2018 investigation reviewed by The Colorado Sun and never before made public. But it remains an incomplete picture, and one Daly’s family doesn’t entirely believe. “I’m not sure what the truth is at this point,” Regina Daly said.
When Carver arrived home, he unloaded weapons from his truck and put them on a couch downstairs outside his bedroom before joining Daly upstairs.
The two pulled a tequila bottle from the top of the fridge and began to drink. Daly, who started drinking earlier in the day, took four shots. Carver drank six shots.
Near 3 a.m., Carver went downstairs to go to bed. He retrieved his firearms and put them in his room to unload and store them. He made sure the chamber of his Glock 34 was empty and reattached the 17-round ammunition magazine. He put it on the bed and turned his attention to unloading the AR-15 carbine.
At this moment, Carver told police, Daly came into the room and picked up the Glock 34 from the bed. He began waving it around. “Dude, you can’t be waving guns around like that,” Carver warned him.
Daly apparently didn’t listen. A moment later, he pulled the slide back to load a round into the chamber, pointed the gun under the right side of his chin and pulled the trigger. Carver said he saw it from the corner of his eye. “All I keep seeing is the slide going forward, and then just boom,” Carver said.
Daly fell onto the Carver’s bed, and the gun landed in his lap. A pool of blood spilled onto the sheets. Carver tugged his leg and saw no response. He assumed Daly was dead.
Carver ran upstairs and shouted for Isabella Schweigert, then a 19-year-old CSU student and the only other roommate home at the time. She had been asleep and told investigators that she thought the sound of the shot “was just in my dream, like a firecracker or something.”
Carver began to call his family. He made four calls, reaching his stepfather on the last one. His stepfather spent about nine minutes trying to calm him down and told him to call police.
Schweigert placed the call to 911 at 3:27 a.m., about 10 to 15 minutes after authorities believe Finn Daly was shot.
“We are going to need an officer [unintelligible] shot himself, he’s dead,” she told the dispatcher.
The dispatcher began to ask more questions and Schweigert called for Carver to take the phone. He is panicked and short-breathed when he takes and phone and seems in shock. The officer searched the house and found Daly on Carver’s bed. A paramedic tried to revive him but he was declared dead at 3:44 a.m.
Later at the police department, where he sat on a couch with a victim’s advocate in a nearby chair, Carver put his head in his hands.
“It’s my fault for having them out,” he said.
The autopsy report stated the cause of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the neck while intoxicated. The toxicology report found Daly’s blood alcohol level was 0.176 and discovered THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, in his system. The coroner ruled it an accident.
From the start, questions haunt the Daly family
Regina Daly didn’t learn about her son’s death until more than seven hours later, and not even from police. One of the roommates who wasn’t home at the time of the shooting called her older son, who relayed the news to her.
From Day 1, the details about what happened didn’t make sense to Daly’s family. And in April 2018, when the family first received the police reports from the closed case, it appeared even less coherent. They had so many questions.
The main one: Why didn’t the roommates try to save Finn Daly, and why did it take so long for them to call 911? Carver told police his experience as a hunter is what made him think Daly was dead. And he told investigators he made four calls to family members before 911 because: “I thought I should probably go through the people I trust most first.” Schweigert told investigators she never went downstairs.
Regina Daly said police told them the roommates immediately called 911, which was not true. And the discrepancy undercut her trust in the entire investigation.
Other questions included: Why were the roommates treated as victims from the start and not questioned harder? Why were there some inconsistencies in the police reports? And why were some forensic tests not conducted?
The investigators never took a Breathalyzer from Carver, who was 20 at the time, even after he admitted to taking six shots and swigging mouthwash while on the phone with 911 dispatchers to hide the fact he was drinking.
The coat Daly was wearing at the time also remains an issue. His family believes it would show a gun residue concentration, but it was not tested and later went missing in the transfer to the funeral home. A gun residue test was conducted on Carver, but the test results were not listed in the initial reports. In addition, the audio of the interview with Schweigert at the police station didn’t get recorded.
In emails to the family, the investigators dismissed the significance of some questions but acknowledged problems with other areas of the investigation. “Admittedly, there is additional work that needs to be done on this case to answer all of your questions, and my questions as well,” Fort Collins Detective Siobhan Seymour told Regina Daly in an email in November.
A Snap raises doubts about initial police investigation
But more than anything, the family wondered: Why was there no investigation of the photo posted to Snapchat taken in the moments just before Finn Daly’s death?
The social media photo shows Carver sitting on his bed holding his AR-15 in his left hand. In his right hand, he held theGlock 34 with no ammunition magazine. The pump-action shotgun was strapped to his chest. In the foreground of the photo, Daly’s hand is shown holding a smaller handgun. The caption says “Shooters shoot,” a slang phrase that essentially means to take a chance when it arrives.
The family said the Snap’s timestamp is 3:11 a.m. but it remains unclear exactly when the photo was taken or how it fits into the timeline described in police reports. Carver appears to be wearing the same clothes from the police videos of the investigation. The family told investigators about the image shortly after the shooting, but it’s not mentioned anywhere in the police reports the family received and it’s not clear if detectives ever saw it.
The Fort Collins police department did not answer questions about the case. The Larimer County District Attorney’s office declined to answer specific questions. Through an attorney, Schweigert declined to comment.
Regardless of what happened before or after the photo was taken, it suggests to Daly’s family that Carver didn’t tell the whole story to investigators and it may contradict his timeline of events. “The picture shows that the gun — the gun that killed him — was in this (Carver’s) hands a couple minutes before the shooting,” said John Bucolo, Daly’s stepfather. “… Then the question is: ‘What else did he lie about?’ And you really don’t know.”
The questions about the photo on Snapchat also simmered in the mind of Finn Daly’s aunt, Margaret Nickerson, for weeks after the initial investigation was closed.
She talked to Detective Dustin Weir, the original investigator, about why Carver didn’t face a charge for prohibited use of a firearm because he was under the influence of alcohol at the time he was handling the weapons. Investigators found all four guns in his room, along with boxes of ammunition.
Nickerson said she was told by the detective that the law didn’t apply because Carver was putting away the weapons, not actively using them. But the Snap seemed to contradict that logic and suggest they were playing with the weapons.
In May 2018, she emailed District Attorney Clifford Riedel in Larimer County, asking him to take a new look and “enforce the law” on prohibited use of a firearm, a misdemeanor crime punishable by 12 months in jail or a fine up to $1,000. She attached a copy of the image from Snapchat.
“Our nation struggles daily to find solutions to the gun violence that plagues our schools and other public places,” she wrote him. “… If you don’t enforce the commonsense laws that are already in place, how can we move forward with efforts to make our communities safer?”
Make more journalism like this possible with a Colorado Sun membership, starting at just $5 a month.
Other family members questioned why Carver possessed a 17-round ammunition magazine even though Colorado banned the sale of large-capacity magazines with more than 15 rounds in 2013. They said they are still waiting for an answer.
The district attorney told Nickerson in reply that he would review the case file. In the meantime, Regina Daly pressed to get more of the initial police records and videos. She wanted police to investigate the officers who did the initial reports.
The pressure led the Fort Collins police to take notice. By November, Seymour, a detective from a unit that specializes in homicide investigations, was assigned to look at the reopened case. She told the family the reason was the photo posted to Snapchat.
Criminal charges 18 months later lead to questions for Carver’s family
Months later, in late May, the family learned police concluded the second investigation and criminal charges would be filed against Carver. Seymour questioned Schweigert and Carver at length.
The evidence she discovered led prosecutors to charge Carver on June 7 with felony tampering with physical evidence, misdemeanor prohibited use of weapon and misdemeanor reckless endangerment.
The details remain murky because the arrest affidavit remains suppressed by the judge. But in a charging document submitted to the court, prosecutors allege that Carver possessed a firearm while under the influence of alcohol and exhibited behavior that “created a substantial risk of serious bodily injury” to Daly. The details about the tampering charge remain unclear, but the maximum penalty is 18 months in prison or a $100,000 fine.
Now a different set of questions haunts Carver’s family. How is it possible to reopen a closed case? How can he face firearms charges for weapons in kept in his own private room? And how is it possible to charge him so long after the fact?
“There’s just a lot of things that don’t make sense, Jody Gardner, Carver’s mother, said in an interview.
“I am lost,” she added. “It makes me question the whole process and the judicial system.”
The attention to Carver’s guns seems overblown to her. She said Carver had a hunting license since he was 12 and knows how to safely handle them. He and his dad collect firearms, which is how her son came to possess two handguns he was not old enough to buy from a dealer. “It’s how we live and enjoy them,” she said.
After the shooting, Carver’s father threw the Glock 34 down a canyon. But Gardner said he later went to retrieve it, afraid someone else would find it, and gave it to the detective.
She said her son is “the most tender-hearted kid on Earth.” He still wonders what he could have done to prevent Daly’s death.
“He has said the whole time that he felt like it was an accident,” Gardner said. “He doesn’t feel like Finn was in a place that he would have done it on purpose. He questioned himself the whole time, on what he could have done to not let that happen. But it was so odd and so fast and just a freak accident.”
Now, she doesn’t understand why Daly’s family would push for criminal charges. “The loss of a friend wasn’t enough?” Gardner asked.
“The blame is not going to bring him back,” she said.
Our articles are free to read, but not free to report
Support local journalism around the state.
Become a member of The Colorado Sun today!
The latest from The Sun
- Parents of Elijah McClain sue Aurora police over his death
- I-70 closed through Glenwood Canyon because of large wildfire, reopening unclear
- Colorado students may shuffle school districts during coronavirus, leaving a financial mess in their wake
- Who should represent Colorado? The answers take shape this week as census, redistricting hit key phases
- Colorado’s struggle to improve school vaccination rates shows the challenges ahead for a coronavirus vaccine