Michael Walker not charged in death of Aaron Bishop, first fatal RTD attack in decade
It was one of the most shocking stories of this past May -- Michael Walker's fatal stabbing of Aaron Bishop on an RTD bus in plain view of passengers. According to RTD, the incident was the first assault resulting in death on one of its buses in more than ten years. Months later, and with virtually no media attention, the 18th Judicial District DA's office has decided against charging Walker with a crime. See the full report below.
Senior deputy district attorney Brian Sugioka's report, addressed to Aurora Police Department Detective Tom Wilson, offers a version of the incident that took place on May 3. According to the narrative, the altercation, which revolved around Walker, Bishop and a third man, Robert Rodgers, appears to have been sparked by a disagreement about opening windows on the bus.
Walker is described as a 52-year-old maintenance worker who rides the bus regularly and knows the driver, as well as some of the passengers. Bishop, 38, was unemployed at the time of his death, having recently been fired from a gig as a line cook "due to cursing and threatening other employees and customers," the report maintains. As for Rodgers, 31, he still worked at the bar that had sacked Bishop, who he referred to as his brother; 9News referred to the pair as half-brothers, but the report says no sibling relationship was definitively established.
At the time of his death, Bishop is said to have had a blood-alcohol content of .239 -- about triple the legal driving limit. Neither Walker nor Rodgers were tested for alcohol or drugs.
When Bishop and Rodgers hopped on the bus at about 4:23 p.m. on the 3rd, Walker was already seated, and the trio didn't seem to pay much attention to each other. But a few minutes later, Bishop and Rodgers opened windows on either side of the bus. The driver responded by asking them to close the windows, and when they ignored him, he stopped the bus, walked back into the passenger area to personally shut them.
On video of the incident cited in the report, Walker can be seen saying something to Bishop and Rodgers. Most witnesses recalled his statement as something along the lines of, "If you mess with the driver, you mess with me."
A few minutes later, Walker searched in vain for a place to sit that was further away from Bishop and Rodgers, only to return to his previous spot. When he did, the report says Bishop moved to the seat opposite and glared at him. Words were then exchanged, and while the audio couldn't catch all of them, witnesses offered their best guesses of what Walker said to Bishop. Among them:
"You don't want this. God's got me. If you come at me, we can handle this."
"You don't want this. Come at me and I will handle you."
"Don't fuck with me. I'm not your plaything."
"Don't fuck with me. I'm gonna hurt you."
"If you come near me, you will pay."
And Rodgers? He said Walker threatened to stab Bishop -- but no one else heard these precise words. However, they did catch Rodgers saying, "Don't fuck with my brother, dude" while moving aggressively in Walker's direction.
At that point, Walker is said to have stood up and removed a small pocketknife -- one with a blade about two-and-a-half inches long. But rather than brandishing it, he held it at his side until Bishop came to his feet and shoved Walker backwards into a pole, which was bent by the force of the impact.
While he was stumbling, however, the video captured Walker making a stabbing motion toward Bishop's chest -- and he did so again as Bishop shoved him a second time, with Walker hitting the windshield so hard that it actually popped out of its frame.
Bishop then shoved Walker out of the bus and threw him to the ground, the report maintains. The video's view at that point was obstructed, but somehow, Rodgers wound up with a serious laceration on his hand. Seconds later, Bishop walked away from the bus and collapsed. Turns out one of the knife wounds had penetrated his heart, while the other one entered his abdomen and perforated his liver.
As Bishop lay on the ground, Walker stepped back onto the bus and offered his apology about the incident, and although he still had the knife in his hand, the report says no one seemed particularly fearful of him. He grabbed his backpack with the intention of walking home, but the other passengers suggested he wait for police.
In a subsequent interview, Rodgers told 9News that Walker had yelled derogatory remarks in addition to making a threat to stab Bishop. "My brother was killed for opening windows," he said. But the report finds numerous inconsistencies with Rodgers's statements -- for one thing, he's said to have initially denied that he and Bishop opened the windows when they can be seen on video doing so -- and points out that while he never physically contacted Walker, he made the first physically aggressive move.
The windshield that was pushed out of its frame during the altercation.
Nonetheless, a legal analysis concludes that no charges should be directed at Rodgers -- or at Walker, either. Deputy DA Sugioka considers and dismisses as inappropriate second-degree murder, use of deadly physical force, reckless manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and even felony menacing, since Walker can be seen holding the knife at his side until Bishop shoved him across the bus. In Sugioka's view, the evidence "establishes that Walker did not knowingly cause the death of Bishop, and was acting reasonably in self-defense."
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