On June 10, 21-year-old Isabella "Bella" Thallas and boyfriend Darian Simon, founder of the Be a Good Person brand, were shot while walking their dog near 30th Avenue and Fox Street. Thallas was killed and Simon was wounded in the incident, which resulted in the arrest of Michael Close. According to the Denver Police Department report, Close allegedly opened fire on the couple with an AK-47 after "the suspect got into a verbal altercation with the victims related to the victims telling the dog to poop."
Nearly a year later, Close is being evaluated at the Colorado Mental Health Institute of Pueblo after entering a not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity plea in the case. But Close's mental state isn't the only mystery connected to the case. The AK-47 he reportedly used was owned by Sergeant Dan Politica of the Denver Police Department. The pair were allegedly friends, but Politica reported the weapon missing after Thallas's death.
Months later, the sequence of events that resulted in Politica's gun winding up in Close's possession is still unclear despite the efforts of two attorneys — Craig Silverman, who represents Simon, and Josh Maximon, retained by Thallas's father, Joshua Thallas — to get answers that authorities still haven't provided; Close has not been charged with stealing Politica's weapon.
On May 15, Joshua Thallas and Maximon were guests on Silverman's podcast, during which the host broke some news that the DPD has confirmed to Westword: Politica resigned from the police force effective March 13.
Politica, too, has secured counsel. According to his attorney, Reid Elkus, "The criminal investigation into Mr. Politica concerning his purported conduct and the resulting death of Ms. Isabella Thallas and Mr. Darian Simon is closed. Mr. Politica is not and has not been criminally charged." As for questions about how Close got his hands on Politica's gun, Elkus adds: "Due to the fact that there is a pending prosecution against Mr. Michael Close, it is not appropriate for Mr. Politica to make any additional comments or provide statements to the press at this time. No further comments on behalf of Mr. Politica will be made."
The Denver District Attorney's Office, which is prosecuting Close, isn't publicly discussing the AK-47, either. According to DA's office spokesperson Carolyn Tyler, "Once we file a case, we don’t discuss it outside of the courtroom." But she does reject the suggestion that Silverman and Maximon are being stonewalled regarding the weapon and the Politica connection. "Our investigation is active and ongoing and...claims about information are incorrect," she says.
This isn't Politica's first appearance in Westword. In the February 2019 post "Eight Times When Denver Cops Ran Afoul on Social Media," we noted that Politica's name was prominent in our coverage of college student Alex Landau's beating by Denver cops in 2009. Politica arrived at the scene after the abuse was under way and claimed that he'd seen Landau reaching for an officer's gun, which Landau denied. The three officers accused of doing the pummeling were never disciplined, but Landau received $975,000 to settle the case.
In October 2015, Politica was suspended for ten days and lost six vacation days after he engaged in a drunken fight with a LoDo street performer. Then, in November 2016, Politica allegedly got into a Facebook dialogue with Brian Matsoukas, who told investigators that while online, the officer "called me a 'faggot' and threatened to 'crush my skull.' [H]e also intimated that he would use his position to harass and intimidate me."
Once he figured out that Politica was a police officer and found a reference to the 2015 case, however, Matsoukas said that "he kind of deleted everything." Politica denied Matsoukas's allegations, and without screen captures, the assertions against the officer were found to be "not sustained."
The DPD didn't provide any details about why Politica left the Denver department in March, but Silverman finds the timing suspicious. He stresses that the AK-47 "is illegal in Denver. Then we learn it belonged to a police officer who belatedly reported it stolen. It doesn't add up, and we want the truth."
"Mr. Elkus said Mr. Politica had been 100 percent cleared on the incident and he had given a full statement; he had not waived his Fifth Amendment privilege," says Maximon. "But that statement does not square with him no longer being on the force and whether there's any connection between those two things. And one of the main reasons Joshua Thallas hired me was to find out the truth regarding the involvement of Dan Politica."
Click to listen to the May 15 Craig Silverman podcast "Remembering Isabella," as well a bonus episode, "The Mystery of the AK-47."
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