ACLU suing Castle Rock for records about police shooting

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The incident described in the suit took place on the afternoon of February 21. That's when Castle Rock Police Department Officer Terry Watts shot at a burglary suspect fleeing in an SUV near the corner of Mango Drive and South Plum Creek Boulevard.

This intersection isn't in the middle of nowhere. The lawsuit points out that the residential area includes Daniel C. Oakes High School, which was in session that day, plus businesses, homes and parking lots. Explore it using the following interactive graphic; if you have problems seeing the image, click "View Larger Map."

View Larger Map

Also present at the time were Michael and Susan Cardella, who live in the neighborhood and happened to be sitting in their car across the street from Officer Watts when the lead started flying. The suit maintains that the officer "swept his rifle in a 180 degree arc and continued to fire between four and seven rounds in quick succession," prompting the Cardellas to take cover. And while neither was perforated, a bullet is said to have "barely missed physically injuring the Cardellas." It ultimately struck their left front tire.

Cut to June, when the Cardellas, assisted by the ACLU, filed a formal request to the CRPD to request assorted documents related to the shooting. But the only record released to date is a "single affidavit supporting the warrantless arrest of the fleeing burglary suspect."

Subsequent requests for records were rejected as well, prompting the lawsuit, which is representative of the ACLU's long struggle to get Colorado police departments to be more transparent.

"Over the years, the ACLU has had repeated struggles with the Denver Police Department when we have asked for records about how they have investigated and resolved complaints of serious police misconduct," Silverstein says. "It seemed that for a number of years, we could get no documents until or unless we filed a lawsuit. And after the lawsuit, we would get the documents, but the next case would come along and we'd be forced to sue again before we could get any documents."

In this view, "The public has an important interest in seeing how police departments investigate cases of serious police misconduct -- in seeing if the investigations are thorough and the officers are held accountable, or if they are, as some believe, whitewashes to cover up for police officers."

Continue for more about the ACLU of Colorado's lawsuit against Castle Rock, including two original documents.
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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