Law Enforcement

Remembering Alex Domina, Teen Killed by Cop During Mental Health Crisis

A portrait of the late Alex Domina and a photo of him in the hospital during his final fight for life.
A portrait of the late Alex Domina and a photo of him in the hospital during his final fight for life. Family photos
On September 8, the largest headlines made by the Loveland Police Department focused on the city's agreement to pay $3 million to settle a lawsuit over the brutal 2020 arrest of Karen Garner, a 73-year- old suffering from dementia.

But another event involving the LPD also took a tragic turn yesterday: The family of nineteen-year-old Alex Domina, who was shot by a Loveland cop on August 16 during a mental health crisis, announced that he had lost his fight for life.

Attorney Mari Newman of Denver-based Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP, who represents the Domina family, sees common ground between the shooting of Domina and the Garner bust.

"The fact that the Loveland Police Department has still failed to provide adequate training to its officers in how to address mental health-related issues is particularly alarming because the department so recently came under fire for its abjectly horrifying treatment of Karen Garner," Newman says. "Seeing that supervisory officers in the department reviewed video of the arrest and determined that there had been no officer misconduct provides petrifying insight into the culture of that department."

On August 16, Domina's grandmother phoned 911 and requested assistance, saying that the teen was a danger to himself and others. Domina was armed with a knife, and when Officer Eddie Luzon failed to immediately calm him down, the cop opened fire.

The video of the shooting was released by the City of Loveland on August 25, complete with an introduction by Loveland Police Chief Bob Ticer that served as the department's statement about what happened: "As part of our police department's and city's pledge to be transparent with the public, I am sharing with you information about an officer-involved shooting that occurred on Monday, August 16, 2021, on Tennessee Street in Loveland. You're about to hear a 911 call and see relevant body-worn camera footage from officers involved. Some of the video, as well as the audio, has been either blurred or redacted to protect the substantial privacy interests of the individuals involved in this incident. This Critical Incident Response Team investigation, also known as CIRT, is being conducted by Fort Collins Police Services under the direction of the 8th Judicial District Attorney. This is an active investigation, and the overall understanding of the incident may change as the remaining evidence may be collected, analyzed and reviewed. We also do not draw any conclusions about whether the officers acted consistent with our policies and the law until all the facts are known and the investigation is complete. A word of caution: The audio you are about to hear and images you are about to see may be disturbing for some audiences. Viewer discretion is advised."

This warning is wholly appropriate. Here's the video:
Newman has not revealed whether the Domina family plans to file a lawsuit over the shooting; she's still "investigating and evaluating," she says.

"Unfortunately, all too often when families call 911 because of a mental health crisis, police who respond end up being the very ones who cause the worst harm," she says, speaking generally. "This is a predictable outcome, because police are not the appropriate first responders for many kinds of emergencies — particularly mental health-related calls."

Over the years, Newman has overseen numerous complaints about victims killed by law enforcement officials during mental health episodes, including the 2015 death of Denver Detention Center inmate Michael Marshall, which the City of Denver settled two years later for $4.65 million. But such payouts have not yet led to across-the-board policy improvements.

"There are isolated departments that have made efforts toward training, but it is a systemic problem," she suggests. "It's a problem rooted in the militarization of law enforcement and the simple fact that law enforcement officers aren't the appropriate first responders for all types of crises."

Newman adds: "When people talk about defunding the police, what they mean is that funding should be put toward appropriate responses for different kinds of community crises. When there's a mental health crisis, the first responder should be somebody who's got specialized training to address those kinds of issues in a way that doesn't cause even more harm than if they hadn't been called at all."

A celebration of Alex Domina's life is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday, September 12, at Crossroads Church, 5420 North Taft Avenue in Loveland.
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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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