Image: Aaron Snyder's home
Ed Andrieski  /  AP
Denver detectives carry evidence from the home of Aaron Snyder and his parents in Thornton, Colo., on Tuesday, a day after Snyder was killed in the governor's office.
updated 7/17/2007 7:01:19 PM ET 2007-07-17T23:01:19

A 32-year-old man who declared himself "the emperor" before being shot to death by a state trooper outside the governor's Capitol office was carrying a loaded .357 handgun, authorities said Tuesday.

Aaron Snyder had been escorted out of Gov. Bill Ritter's office Monday when he pulled back his coat to reveal the handgun and moved toward a state trooper, Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman said. Snyder did not draw the weapon but ignored two warnings that the trooper would fire if he did not stop.

Trooper Jay Hemphill, a 12-year member of the state patrol, shot Snyder twice in the head and once in the chest, officials said.

"The trooper did exactly what he was trained to do to protect himself," Whitman said.

Snyder, of suburban Thornton, had entered Ritter's office about 2 p.m. and declared, "I am the emperor and I'm here to take over state government," before being escorted out, officials said. He also carried a 6-inch hunting knife, Whitman said.

"It appears to be some type of mental problem," Whitman said, not elaborating. He did not know whether Snyder was on medication or getting treatment, he said.

Ritter was inside the office and heard the shots, but no one besides the gunman was hurt.

Bought tuxedo earlier in the day
About three hours earlier, Snyder had gone to a suburban shop with a gun and knife in his pockets, rented a tuxedo and told a woman it was "the day of the emperor's reign," Northglenn police said.

Snyder had also told a co-worker in an e-mail Monday that God made him "the emperor, the sovereign ruler of this nation," said police in Fort Collins, where Snyder had been an intern for Advanced Energy.

"God has bestowed this honor on me. Today is the appointed day in which God has chosen for me to begin my reign," the e-mail read.

Advanced Energy said Snyder had worked there for two months. The company issued a statement offering sympathy to Snyder's family but declining to give any specifics about Snyder or his work.

Police on Monday spent two hours searching the home of Snyder's parents, Richard and Kathie Snyder, in Thornton, a suburb. They left with at least three cardboard boxes and as many as 10 large paper bags.

Aaron Snyder's car was found parked six blocks from the Capitol, Whitman said. It has been impounded and will be searched.

Hemphill, 35, is on paid administrative leave while police investigate whether the shooting was justified, officials said.

"He has a very stellar track record, never been in trouble. He's performed at a high level," Master Trooper Ron Watkins said.

Troopers in the governor's security detail receive extra training from the FBI, State Department and Secret Service in protecting dignitaries, detecting bombs and other areas, he said.

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