11th Officer-Involved Area Shooting Since Halloween: Suspected Car Thief Critical

Last night, a suspected car thief was critically injured in an officer-involved shooting in north Denver.

According to 7News, the incident was the fourth officer-involved shooting over the past week in metro Denver, the sixth during the month of December and the eleventh in the Front Range since Halloween.

Moreover, an apparent bullet hole in the window of the car at the center of the latest shooting raises questions about whether the officer in question fired into a moving vehicle — an approach that's been controversial nationwide and which the Denver Police Department forbade in the months following the fatal officer-involved shooting of suspected car thief Jessie Hernandez in January.

At this point, the DPD is listed as the investigating agency in the case, which involved an officer with the Metro Auto Theft Task Force, a multi-agency operation.

Here's a description of the task force, as excerpted from a City of Lakewood post:
The Metropolitan Auto Task Force

Colorado's first full-time auto theft task force became operational as a Jefferson County effort in July of 2009. The task force was initially composed of investigators from the Arvada, Golden, Lakewood and Wheat Ridge police departments, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office and the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office.

The team experienced immediate success in the first few months by targeting organized auto theft criminals. Due to this, the task force expanded. The City and County of Denver, Westminster Police Department and the Denver District Attorney's Office joined the task force and it was renamed the Metropolitan Auto Theft Task Force (MATT) in 2010. MATT has established partnerships with the Colorado Attorney General's Office-Special Prosecution Unit, the National Insurance Crime Bureau and the Douglas County Sheriff's Department. MATT is centrally housed in Lakewood and has quick and easy access to the six-county Denver metropolitan area.

The team is funded through a grant from the Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority (CATPA). CATPA is a Colorado state authority, legislatively established through grant-funding to reduce Colorado's serious auto theft problem. Its mission is to reduce vehicle theft and insurance fraud through a statewide cooperative law enforcement effort. The agency generates funds to support law enforcement, prosecution and public awareness through a partnership between the insurance industry and state government. It is funded by a required annual $1 per insured-vehicle assessment.
Thus far, the main department of the officer who fired the shot in this case hasn't been shared.

The first official communication about the latest shooting came via this Denver police tweet, sent out just shy of 8:30 p.m. last night.

The department subsequently revealed that the Metro Auto Theft Task Force was investigating a report of a stolen vehicle.

What's known as a PIT maneuver was used to disable the vehicle and shots were fired on the 4500 block of North Ivy.

No officer was hurt in the incident.

The same cannot be said of the suspect, who was rushed to an area hospital in critical condition.

That's it for the details thus far.

As such, plenty of questions remain — and making direct comparisons to the Hernandez case is premature.

But here's the a summation of the policy change formalized by the Denver Police Department in June: ""Firearms shall not be discharged at a moving or fleeing vehicle unless deadly force is being used against the police officer or another person present by means other than a moving vehicle."

Whatever the circumstances of the latest case, the number of officer-involved shootings in recent weeks can't help but raise concerns.

Even if the suspect in this incident survives his wounds, the body count is clearly escalating.

Look below to see a 7News report about last night's shooting.

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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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