Crime

Christian Glass Killing: Inside Quietly Announced Indictment of Two Cops

Christian Glass greeted the law-enforcement officers who would soon kill him by making a heart with his hands.
Christian Glass greeted the law-enforcement officers who would soon kill him by making a heart with his hands. Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC via Vimeo
Journalists use the phrase "news dump" to describe a public agency's release of potentially controversial material late on a Friday afternoon or just before a holiday — times when few people are paying attention to headlines.

The bulletin from the 5th Judicial District DA Heidi McCollum's office about the November 22 indictment by a grand jury of two law enforcement officers from the Clear Creek County Sheriff's Office, Deputy Andrew Buen and Sergeant Kyle Gould, in connection with the fatal shooting of 22-year-old Christian Glass certainly fits this definition. The email blast went out at 10:47 p.m. November 23, on the eve of Thanksgiving weekend, after the last local TV newscasts for the evening had already concluded. The result was extremely limited coverage on Thanksgiving, one of the lowest news-consumption days of the year.

John Bryan, spokesperson for the district attorney's office, denies any intention of sneaking this development past most members of the public. "I sent out the press release as soon as it was ready to go," he says. "There's no backstory to it. That's the truth of what happened."

Attorney Siddhartha Rathod of Denver-based Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC, which represents Glass's family, refrains from criticizing the unusual distribution of details. "We are not in a position to comment on the timing of the announcement of charges, as we were not privy to those decisions," he says. But after offering appreciation of McCollum's work "in bringing charges in this matter," he adds: "No charges will bring Christian back to his family, and all five of the agencies and seven officers present must be held accountable."

Buen, who fired the shots that killed Glass, was indicted on three charges: second-degree murder, official misconduct and reckless endangerment. Gould, who wasn't on the scene but gave the order for Glass to be forcibly removed from his vehicle even though he had committed no crime, faces accusations of criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment. Both have been fired by the Clear Creek County Sheriff's Office.

However, no allegations were pressed against any of the other law enforcement officers at the scene: CCSO deputy Timothy Collins, Georgetown Police Department Chief Randall Williams, Idaho Springs Police Officer Brittany Morrow, Colorado State Patrol Trooper Ryan Bennie and Colorado Gaming Commission officers Krista Lloyd and Mary Harris. But all of them were participants, to greater or lesser degrees, in an incident that led to a death seen by members of the grand jury empaneled in the case as wholly unnecessary.

The indictments of Buen and Gould were unsealed by a judge on November 28, and they reveal why the grand jury authorized charges against them, if not why others avoided this fate.

From the evening of June 10 to June 11, according to the indictments, Glass was traveling eastbound on Interstate 70 in a 2007 Honda Pilot. After he exited at Silver Plume, the vehicle's wheel got stuck between two "boulders" as he attempted a U-turn, and he subsequently phoned 911 for assistance. "During this telephone call, Mr. Glass made statements that he was being followed and other statements which would indicate to anyone listening that he was paranoid, hallucinating and/or delusional and experiencing a mental-health crisis," the document states. The text also confirms that Glass told the dispatcher that he had a hammer and a small knife that he used for rock hunting in his possession and offered to "throw them from the vehicle when help arrived."

Deputies Buen and Collins drove to Glass's location in separate patrol cruisers, and while Glass didn't leave the vehicle, he again offered to toss out his weapons — something Buen told him not to do, according to the indictment.
click to enlarge
A portrait of the late Christian Glass.
Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC via Vimeo
After they arrived, both Williams and Morrow tried to build a rapport with Glass in order to coax him out of his car. But according to the indictments, "Buen's interactions with Mr. Glass fluctuated between conversational in tone to being verbally aggressive towards Mr. Glass. Deputy Collins attempted several times to step in to talk with Mr. Glass when Deputy Buen's demeanor became verbally aggressive with Mr. Glass. Deputy Buen appears not to have picked up on any of the verbal cues or offers from Deputy Collins to help with the communication with Mr. Glass."

As the encounter dragged on, Buen and Collins communicated with Gould, the shift supervisor, who was off site but able to view what was happening "utilizing a remote viewing feature through the deputies' body cams." Because Buen muted his body-worn camera's audio during one of these chats, the conversation wasn't recorded, but he later told Williams "that the decision had been made to extract Mr. Glass from the vehicle," despite the fact that "no one on the scene had made a determination that there was probable cause or reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed or was being committed," the indictments note.

At that point, "law enforcement then escalated the encounter with Mr. Glass in an effort to remove him from the vehicle," the indictments continue. Collins jumped onto the Pilot's hood, while Williams unsuccessfully tried to bust out the rear driver-side window. Buen was able to break through the front passenger-side window with his baton, though, and then shot six bean-bag rounds at Glass to no effect beyond causing him tremendous pain. After that, Williams and Buen fired tasers, "which caused Mr. Glass to scream in agony and panic." He responded by picking up the knife and swinging it in various directions "in a state of complete panic and self-defense," and while no one "was in imminent danger of being stabbed by Mr. Glass," Buen "fired his service pistol five times into Mr. Glass," who was pronounced dead at the scene.

Here's a video compilation of body-camera footage:

Glass Final Video from Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC on Vimeo.

The indictments end with this summary: "But for the decision by Gould to remove Mr. Glass from the vehicle, there is no reason to believe that Mr. Glass would have been a danger to any law enforcement personnel, to himself, or to any member of the public, and the decisions to remove him from the vehicle directly led to the death of Mr. Glass."

Click to access the indictments of Kyle Gould and Andrew Buen. Continue to read a statement about the indictments from the Clear Creek County Sheriff's Office:
The shooting death of Christian Glass continues to be a devastating event for Christian's family, friends, the Clear Creek County community, and the Sheriff's Office. Today's decision by a Grand Jury to indict Mr. Andrew Buen and Mr. Kyle Gould follows months of a painstaking investigation by a team of dedicated investigators and careful consideration by members of our community empaneled to serve on a Grand Jury.

The indictment is part of a painful but necessary process. From the beginning, CCSO pledged full cooperation with the criminal investigation. This is an ongoing commitment, continuing with the next phase of the criminal justice process.

While the criminal investigation was taking place, Sheriff Rick Albers requested, and Douglas County Sheriff's Office accepted the offer to conduct an internal investigation to ensure transparency and accountability. While the investigation is still underway, preliminary findings show there were policy and procedural failings, and the initial news release about the shooting, based on the information available at the time of the incident, does not reflect the entirety of what happened on that terrible night. The internal investigation will continue.

As a result of today's indictment, the Sheriff terminated the employment of Mr. Andrew Buen and Mr. Kyle Gould with the Clear Creek County Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff reaffirms his commitment to make any necessary changes to try and prevent a terrible situation like this from happening in the future, increase public trust in the CCSO, and continue to look for every opportunity to improve.
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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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