It's been over two weeks since 22-year-old Andrew Huff was hit in the buttocks by an Aurora police officer shooting through the living room window of his home in southeast Aurora.
Huff was definitely holding a shotgun. But in a body-cam still shot released by the Aurora Police Department, Huff isn't pointing the shotgun at police. In fact, Huff insists that he didn't realize the people outside of his house were police officers.
"There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Huff knew it was the police that were there and grabbed the gun anyway," countered Deputy Aurora Police Chief Paul O'Keefe at an October 25 press conference called to discuss the Huff incident and another officer-related shooting this month, as well as the August in-custody death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain.
According to Birk Baumgartner, Huff's lawyer, his client thought the person dressed in black outside of his house on the night of October 10 was a roommate with whom he had gotten into an argument earlier in the day. Huff thought the roommate had returned to the house with a group of friends to rough him up and was scared, says the attorney, who points out that Huff might have been frightened of the wrong person.
"Any Aurora citizen who is in an emergency should be as afraid of the Aurora police responding to their home as they are of the emergency itself," Baumgartner continues. "If I had an emergency in my home and the Aurora police showed up, I would be very worried about being killed by the Aurora police."
The officer-involved shooting is currently being investigated by the Aurora Police Department, the Denver Police Department and the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. Investigators are sifting through a series of events that started hours before the shooting took place.
Earlier that day, according to Baumgartner, Huff's roommate, George Gutierrez, had taken Huff's brother's car without his permission. "When the brothers threatened to call the police on [Gutierrez], he returned with the car, but wouldn't get out," Baumgartner says, adding that the car had sustained thousands of dollars' worth of damage in the interim.
An altercation ensued that was loud enough that a neighbor called the police. Gutierrez left on foot before the police arrived. Huff told the officers that he and his brother had been defending their property from Gutierrez and gave them his cell number, telling police to call him if they needed more information, Baumgartner says.
Gutierrez later called the Aurora Police Department to report that he had been assaulted by the two brothers, that Huff had held a gun to his head, and that he had ended up in the hospital because of the attack.
After that, a handful of Aurora officers returned to Huff's house.
"Upon officer’s arrival they saw Mr. Huff standing next to a truck. As the officers (in full police uniform) approached the house, Mr. Huff immediately fled into the home. As mentioned in the affidavit, Mr. Huff was looking out of a window of a well-lit room as the responding officer was waving at him. The officer was certain Mr. Huff saw her and recognized her as a Police Officer. Mr. Huff then quickly disappeared from the officer's view. Mr. Huff then suddenly reappeared at the same front window armed with a shotgun. It was at this point one of the responding officers made the decision to discharge their weapon," the department reports in a release on the incident.
But the Aurora officers did not actually identify themselves as police officers. "They did not announce as Aurora PD," O'Keefe admitted at the October 25 press conference.
Alexander Ord was the officer who discharged his weapon; he fired four shots, including the one that hit Huff in the buttocks.
According to O'Keefe, Ord told Huff to drop his weapon before he fired his own gun.
But Huff's lawyer disputes that. "The statement that the officer told him to drop his weapon is a bald-faced lie. It's a despicable attempt at smearing Mr. Huff's good name, and O'Keefe should resign based on those behaviors alone," Baumgartner says. (O'Keefe will become Aurora's interim police chief when current chief Nick Metz leaves at the end of the year.)
According to Baumgartner, his client was spooked by people in dark clothes crossing the street and going into his yard. A neighbor took a video that shows the officers were dressed all in black and wearing skull caps. "They look like thugs or like a secret military operation. They do not look like a typical police officer," Baumgartner notes.
"That scared him," Huff's attorney says. "He ran into his house, locked the door, went up to his bedroom, grabbed the shotgun and told his wife, 'Somebody is walking through our yard.' He went downstairs and looked out the front window," the attorney says. "He saw somebody pop out in the front yard. That scared him again. He turned to grab his cell phone to call 911. That's when he was immediately shot in the back. He did in fact call 911 at that moment and ask for help. That 911 call will prove that he had no idea that the police had shot him. No person in their right mind gets shot by the police and then calls the police."
Baumgartner says he has subpoenaed all of the law enforcement records related to the case, including any 911 calls, and is waiting to receive them.
Huff was arrested and charged with third-degree assault, second-degree assault and menacing in relation to the altercation with Gutierrez earlier in the day.
Baumgartner says he thinks Ord should be prosecuted for attempted murder or murder if Huff dies. "He's in the hospital now with a deadly infection. He has had six surgeries," Baumgartner notes. "Whether he survives or not is up in the air."
If he survives, Baumgartner says, his client will be pleading not guilty to the criminal charges related to the altercation with Gutierrez, and also plans to sue Ord, O'Keefe and the City of Aurora.
This is not the first time that Aurora police officers have shot an armed citizen in his home. In July 2018, an Aurora police officer shot and killed Richard Gary Black, who was holding a firearm. Black's family had called 911 to report a home invader; by the time police arrived, Black had already shot and wounded the invader. In a parallel to Huff's case, the police who entered Black's home did not identify themselves as police. The officer who shot and killed Black, Drew Limbaugh, did yell for Black to drop his weapon and show his hands before shooting him, however. Limbaugh was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing.
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