Close Call at Swedish Medical Center Police Shooting

Shattered glass on the passenger-side seat and a look at the blown-out window.
Shattered glass on the passenger-side seat and a look at the blown-out window. Photos by Deb Roberts
In today's world, any of us can be minutes away from life-altering violence. Any of us.

Yesterday's officer-involved shooting in a Swedish Medical Center parking structure serves as a reminder.

In our post on the subject, I noted that my wife was at Swedish for a doctor's appointment at the time of the shooting. Afterward, she asked an Englewood police officer on the scene how long it would be before she could drive her car out of the structure in question, which is across the street from the hospital. His answer: "Hours."

Faced with such a wait, my wife called an Uber to take her to the area school where she serves as principal — and in the early afternoon, she received a call from another representative of the Englewood Police Department. The officer asked her to describe our vehicle, a 2014 Honda CR-V, and after hearing the particulars, he shared with her his suspicion that the car was "part of this."

As she learned firsthand after catching a ride back to the parking structure, the front passenger-side window had been blown out, scattering broken glass all over the interior of the car. Because a bullet hadn't been found, the officer who met her said an incident report separate from the one involving the shooting would be written. But while there had been a couple of unrelated break-ins at the structure overnight, those cars had been trashed. In contrast, nothing had been taken from the Honda, leading the officer to believe that the window had shattered after being struck by a ricochet.

When my wife asked where the shooting had taken place, the officer gestured a very short distance away.

The EPD's updated account of the incident — the tenth officer-involved shooting in Colorado in eight days, counting one in Greeley last night — made my wife's near-miss even clearer.

Initial reports said that the shooting had taken place at around 8 a.m. on the morning of January 16. But the most recent narrative notes that Englewood police officers responded to a report of a stolen vehicle in the parking structure at 7:45 a.m.

click to enlarge
More glass wound up on the driver's-side floorboard.
Photo by Deb Roberts
This difference is significant, since my wife remembers looking at her clock as she pulled into the garage and seeing that the time was 7:44 a.m. — something that stuck in her mind since she was a new patient and the doctor's office had asked her to get there at 7:45.

Upon their arrival, the EPD recap continues, the officers found the stolen vehicle occupied by two individuals, and during the interaction that followed, a 26-year-old female was shot. At last report, she was in critical condition at a local hospital — Swedish, presumably. In addition, a 35-year-old male was taken into custody.

Thus far, additional details have not been released — so we don't know if the suspects were armed and if one or both pointed a weapon at officers, prompting them to open fire, or if triggers were pulled for another reason. But the officer who spoke with my wife confirmed that the shooting happened on the structure's fourth level, not far from where my wife parked.

She didn't hear any gunshots, but that may be because she was in the structure's stairwell; she decided to take the stairs, which likely would have masked outside sounds, rather than waiting for the elevator because she was running late. This seemingly random decision could have saved her life.

Others were likely just as close to the crossfire. My wife remembers plenty of people flowing in and out of the parking structure as she rushed to her appointment — enough to make her think a shift change at the hospital was under way. And the business manager at the doctor's office was late getting to work because she was ordered to stay in her car on a different level of the parking structure until police gave the all-clear.

I'm sharing this story not because it's so uncommon, but because it isn't. Many of us have personally encountered gun violence; many more have had it occur nearby. Police in Denver are increasingly telling folks to shelter in place when dangers lurk in the immediate area, and stories of innocent bystanders being hurt or killed by gunfire pop up with disturbing regularity. Note that the man who suffered a fatal wound in a broad-daylight shooting near Coors Field last November appears to have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

My wife was infinitely more fortunate. The only thing destroyed was a piece of glass that will cost us $100 (our car-insurance deductible) to replace. But her sense of security has definitely taken a hit.

Probably her closest previous brush with a shooter took place in an even more banal location than a hospital parking structure: the front porch of our home in Littleton. We live about ten minutes or so from Columbine High School, and after the April 1999 attack there, my wife was surprised to recognize shooter Dylan Klebold from the photos released in the tragedy's wake. At first she couldn't put her finger on where she'd encountered him. But then she realized that he'd previously delivered pizzas to us.

These circumstances are vastly different. When Klebold had come to our door, he'd come bearing food, not weapons, and he left without offering the slightest indication about his darkest impulses. But yesterday, bullets were flying.

Just as they do every day in cities big and small in 2019 America.
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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