Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz: Suspects Are Making Us Shoot Them

Earlier this week, we posted about three Aurora police officer-involved shootings in May, including an incident on Sunday, May 15, during which a suspect was critically injured.

The person shot has now been identified as nineteen-year-old Natnael Gebretsadik, and in a press conference on view below, Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz said he twice aimed a handgun at an officer before he was put down.

He also took on the question of why there have been so many police shootings of late in his jurisdiction and the Front Range area as a whole.

His answer essentially put much of the responsiblity on suspects who force officers to make potentially deadly choices.

"We are seeing a growing trend around the country, and I think it's appropriate, totally appropriate, that the press and the community ask, 'Why are officers being involved in these types of shootings?'" he said. "But I think the other question that needs to be asked is, 'Why are people feeling so emboldened to be willing to pull a gun out and point it at an officer in a threatening or menacing manner?'"

As we've reported, the latest shooting took place following an 11 p.m. May 15 traffic stop on East Evans Avenue near South Blackhawk Street.

At around that time, cops pulled over a Saturn sedan with four people inside "for a traffic violation."

When they did so, a passenger later identified as Gebretsadik fled the vehicle on foot. An APD officer took off after him and reported seeing the man produce a gun — and indeed, a gat was recovered at the scene.

The officer reacted by shooting Gebretsadik, who, at last report, was in an area hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Among the details to surface since then is information about Gebretsadik's arrest record, which features 26 previous busts for offenses such as aggravated assault and robbery.

Here's a booking photo of him from Aurora:

Regarding the details of the incident on the 15th, Metz said two of his officers had been patrolling the area near East Iliff and Interstate 225 known as "motel row" in part because of a stabbing that took place earlier that evening about a mile and a half away, at the Burlington Coat Factory branch on the 1200 block of South Abilene Street. (Cops now say they don't believe Gebretsadik and company had anything to do with the stabbing.)

That's when the cops spotted the Saturn, which allegedly had a defective taillight — and once they did so, they say they smelled marijuana.

This scent prompted a check on the four occupants. The records of each weren't specified in part because two of them weren't charged with a crime; the only arrest beyond Gebretsadik's was for possession of ecstasy. However, Metz mentioned weapon possession and gang affiliation pertaining to some of them.

When the officers — the two on the initial stop plus a third, who responded to a request to provide cover — began patting down the Saturn four, Gebretsadik took off, Metz said, and officers could see that he held a handgun.

Orders to drop the gat were issued, but Gebretsadik ignored them, Metz continued. Seconds later, Gebretsadik fell down, Metz says, then rolled and pointed the gun at the officer pursuing him before getting back to his feet. While running, he allegedly aimed the gun again, and the second time, the cop squeezed his trigger, striking Gebretsadik in the area of his pelvis.

During his account, Metz stressed that the officer in question fired because he feared for his life — a specific phrase frequently used in district attorney letters deeming shoots justified.

In Metz's words, suspects who brandish guns "should expect that there is going to be a response by that officer" — and in the case of Gebretsadik, there most certainly was.

Look below to see the complete press conference, courtesy of the Aurora Police Department, followed by a 7News report about the 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