The house on Clermont Street where the shootings took place.Courtesy of CBS4
Update: The Denver Office of the Medical Examiner has identified the man killed by a Denver police officer on the 2200 block of South Clermont Street on February 13 as 52-year-old Peter Le. According to the Denver Police Department, as described in the post below, Le was shot after firing a bullet into the head of Quyen Le, his 86-year-old father, who died from his wound. Continue for our previous coverage.
Original post: A Denver Police Department commander says that the cop at the center of an officer-involved shooting on the 2200 block of South Clermont Street, east of the DU campus, late on Tuesday, February 13, would have been justified in immediately shooting the suspect he encountered, since he was threatening his aged father with both a gun and a knife. Instead, the officer tried to convince him to give up peacefully and only fired after the man shot his dad in the head. Both father and son died shortly thereafter.
DPD Commander Barb Archer spoke to the media about the Clermont Street case, as seen in the video shared here, and provided a clear account of what happened from the police perspective.
"It started around 10:30 p.m., when a male called Denver 911 from an address in Lakewood," Archer began. "He called and said one of his brothers was harassing his 86-year-old father at the house on South Clermont Street. And this information was being provided to him by another brother, who was in the house on Clermont."
A single officer "got to the house around 10:33 p.m. and was immediately met outside by the other brother," Archer continued. "That male came out and said that their other brother was inside the house and was threatening their dad with a knife and a gun."
The immediacy of the danger "forced the officer's response," she allowed. "He didn't have the opportunity to wait for cover officers. He had to immediately address the situation."
Here's the video.
"So the front door of the house was open, and the officer could hear a male yelling from the inside," Archer went on. "He looked inside and saw the suspect standing with a knife and a gun in his hands next to his elderly father, who was lying on a bed in the room."
At that point, "the officer immediately began ordering the male to 'put the gun down, put the weapons down,'" she maintained. "The male was agitated, he was yelling, threatening to harm the father, and he wasn't complying with the officer's pleas to 'please drop the gun, drop the gun.'"
Nonetheless, Archer said, "the officer continued to negotiate with the male. This went on for about six minutes."
In response to a subsequent question about this extended period, Archer stressed that the officer "would have been justified in discharging his weapon right away. He felt that the threat was immediate and yet not imminent, and the suspect was talking to him — yelling back and forth to him. As I've said in the past, all of our officers are CIT [Crisis Intervention Team] trained to negotiate and talk people down and try to get them out of their crisis. He seemed to be managing that."
Eventually, however, "the suspect escalated the situation when he put the gun to the father's head," Archer revealed. "What we know is that the suspect shot the father and the officer shot the suspect. ... The father...was shot at the scene. He did die at the scene. The brother was taken to a local hospital, where he died of his injuries."
The timing of the two shots "was nearly simultaneous," Archer estimated. "We're still working out the level of detail on that." She added that the other brother was outside the house when the guns were fired and didn't personally witness what happened.
Like the father and son, the officer in the shooting has not been publicly named at this writing. But Archer divulged that he "has been with the police department for 22 years and is assigned to patrol duties in District 3."
The officer has been placed on paid administrative leave, as is standard procedure in such instances. As for the investigation, Archer said that it will involve "members of our Denver police homicide unit, members of the Aurora police homicide unit and the Denver District Attorney's Office," with oversight by the Office of the Independent Monitor.
As we've reported, the incident marked the fifteenth officer-involved shooting along Colorado's Front Range since New Year's Eve, as well as the sixth in nine days. It was also the second DPD officer-involved shooting since February 5. The father and son, who will be identified after complete next-of-kin notification, were the ninth and tenth civilians killed during this rash of gunplay; three law enforcers also lost their lives in the episodes.
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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.