Christopher Bush Killed Himself Rather Than Face Sex Crime Charge, DA Says

Last December, we told you the story of Ian Santamaria, who killed himself in his car after being pulled over by deputies.

The events that ended with the death of Loveland's Christopher Bush has similar elements, but there was a key difference.

In Santamaria's case, police opened fire after a weapon was produced — something that tends to happen in suicide-by-cop scenarios. Other examples from recent years include shootings involving a despondent CSU student, a gunman who reportedly said, "If they don't fucking shoot me, I'll stab them in the goddamn eyeball," and an emotionally overwhelmed Boulder County resident.

By contrast, the Loveland cops involved in the most recent incident — Officer Ben DeLima and Detective Henry Stucky — didn't pull their respective triggers, even at a time when Bush appeared ready to shoot one or both of them, according to the decision letter from the Eighth Judicial District DA's office included below.

"I thought I was dead," DeLima is quoted as saying about the rare officer-involved shooting in which no officers shot at anyone, Bush included.

The report says that on April 3, DeLima and Stucky went to 418 SE 8th Street, Unit #C7 in search of Bush, who was suspected of sexually assaulting a child.

The location was Bush's work address. At the time, Bush, who'd just broken up with his fiancee, was thought to be homeless and living out of his truck, and even though he'd been informed that he'd be losing his job on April 10, the cops felt meeting him there was safest for everyone involved.

After all, they'd been told he owned several firearms.

Upon their arrival, DeLima and Stucky asked Bush to step outside, the report notes. Then, after removing a knife from his belt, Stucky told Bush about the accusations made against him by "a young female."

Bush is said to have reacted by breathing heavily, as if he was in the midst of a panic attack. He was so upset, in fact, that DeLima called an ambulance.

While they waited, Stucky grew worried that Bush had avoided answering an earlier question about whether he had any other weapons on him beyond the knife — and his concern escalated when Bush tried to escape, first by walking quickly ahead of them and later by breaking into a run.

Around then, the decision letter says, Stucky saw a pistol in Stucky's hand, prompting him to yell, "Gun! Gun!" at DeLima.

At that point, DeLima grabbed Bush by the neck and took him to the ground. But as they fell, Bush slipped free, and when DeLima looked up again, he says he saw Bush "pointing a handgun directly at him" as he tried to stand.

DeLima couldn't get to his own gun, so he "physically reengaged Mr. Bush before he could stand up" and tried to grab Bush's pistol, the report continues. Meanwhile, Stucky pushed the barrel of the pistol away from himself.

That's when Bush pointed it at his own face, the report states.

As the wrestling went on, and the gun pointed in several directions, DeLima "threw his chest over Mr. Bush in the hope that his ballistic chest plate would protect him if Mr. Bush fired his weapon" — and he did.

DeLima recalls hearing a "pop" and thinking either he or Stucky had been shot.

Instead, Bush had shot himself with the gun, a Springfield Armory XD .45 caliber compact loaded with ammo that had red plastic plugs.

The fatal shot was the only one fired.

For that reason and others, Eighth Judicial District DA Clifford Riedel concludes that DeLima and Stucky "acted with reasonable force to affect the arrest of Mr. Bush and to protect themselves, and each other....

"The evidence demonstrates that the officers acted courageously and professionally," he allows.

Riedel also notes that had Bush survived, he would have been charged with unlawful sexual assault on a child and attempted first-degree murder of a police officer.

Here's the decision letter.

Christopher Bush Decision Letter.pdf

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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