In May, we reported about an incident during which aman was shot by police
afterholding a gun to his own head
in an incident caught on video.
At the time, we wondered if this tragic occurrence was an example of a phenomenon known as suicide by cop, and that's the conclusion reached by Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey in a decision letter on view below. It quotes the man, identified as Christopher DuBois, as repeatedly asking to be shot -- and reveals that the gun he held was incapable of firing.
DuBois's online obituary features the photo seen above. He's described as a "disabled Vet who proudly served in the U.S. Coast Guard." Among the dozens of heartfelt memories shared on the page is this one:
Chris, I've tried for days to write something and struggle with the words. We've shared a long life together as friends through many of life's stages. I'm so sad that we will not have any more memories to create together. We love you Chris and I know your family knows how much you loved them even though you may not have been able to be with them the way you had expressed to me.... We will be saying goodbye to you today but in reality I know you will be here with all of us, making sure we are safe.
DuBois leaves a mother, a sister and two children. Our sincere condolences to his friends, family and loved ones.
The happenings that led to DuBois's death are outlined in the "Summary of Facts" section of Morrissey's decision letter. On Sunday, May 14, according to the document, a woman identified as DuBois's ex-girlfriend dialed 911 not once but twice out of concern for his welfare. She said he'd taken her prescription medicine the previous day and had told her during a phone conversation that he'd consumed all of it. He also threatened to commit suicide -- something she said he'd attempted before.
Personnel from the Denver Fire Department arrived at DuBois's 2621 South Federal Boulevard home first. Looking through the door into the house, they saw him on a couch apparently snorting cocaine. A DFD representative told him the department had been called to help him and asked if the accompanying crew could come in. DuBois rejected the offer and said he had a gun, prompting the fire department staffers to withdraw.
"Don't call the cops," DuBois is quoted as saying, adding. "If the cops come, I'm going to shoot myself." He then walked outside, produced a handgun, manipulated its slide and went back inside.
Despite DuBois's warning, DFD staffers informed police on the scene what was happening. Officers took up positions around the house and a sergeant attempted to communicate with DuBois via a loudspeaker, asking him to step outside again but leave his weapon behind.
Instead, DuBois appeared at the door with the gun to his head. The sergeant responded by ordering him to the ground and telling him to drop the pistol. In response, the report says, DuBois paced around the yard still pointing the weapon to his temple and yelled, "Shoot me. Shoot me." Then, as if that wasn't provocation enough, he racked the pistol's slide, walked into the street and waved the gun in the direction of two cops across the street from the residence.
A corporal at whom DuBois had aimed decided it was time to "deploy the 40" -- meaning a large, 40 millimeter rubber bullet. But though the projectile struck DuBois in the torso, it appeared to have no effect on him.
"Shoot me again," DuBois said. "Shoot me again."
Continue for more about the shooting of Christopher DuBois, including photos, video and a document. By now, onlookers had started to pop up, including an individual who got video of the confrontation viewable below. But DuBois continued to ignore orders to lower the gun, prompting a second shot with a rubber bullet. It, too, impacted his torso without seeming to trouble him in any way.
At this point, DuBois allegedly ran toward a home police knew to be occupied, because they'd seen two women in the doorway. Police gave pursuit, and as he was running alongside a car in the driveway, an officer fired a load from a shotgun that took DuBois down and led to his death.
The officer quickly removed DuBois's gun -- a silver-colored Astra Constable 380 semi-automatic pistol with a magazine. It's the kind of weapon that could have done considerable damage but for two things. The Denver Police crime lab discovered that it wasn't loaded -- and even if it had been, its firing pin was missing, making operation impossible.
In the decision letter, Morrissey references the video, noting that it shows DuBois ignoring "officers' repeated commands to drop his gun," as well as acting as if the gun was "loaded, functional and deadly." His "upset and irrational behavior...continuously gave the appearance that he was a threat to himself, to the officers, and to the people in the neighborhood."
In Morrissey's view, DuBois's move toward the occupied home created "an increased risk he would escape being contained by police. At that point, based on DuBois's erratic, unreasonable and apparently suicidal behavior while brandishing a deadly weapon, it was certainly reasonable to believe that Mr. DuBois was likely to endanger human life or to inflict serious bodily injury to another person if he was not apprehended without delay." Hence, he concludes that the shooting of DuBois did not justify the filing of criminal charges against the officer.
Look below to see a 9News report featuring the video, followed by the complete decision letter.
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More from our News archive circa 2011: "Suicide by cop? Denver cop shoots man who attacked squad car with hammer (VIDEO)."