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A screen capture from a video showing the July 1 fatal shooting in Denver of 22-year-old Christopher Barela.
A screen capture from a video showing the July 1 fatal shooting in Denver of 22-year-old Christopher Barela.
Steven B/Fox31 via YouTube

Are Colorado's 68 Police Shootings in 2019 a Terrible New Record?

A fatal police shooting in Lakewood on December 19 marks at least the 68th officer-involved shooting in Colorado during 2019, and the 17th in just the past two and a half months. The yearly total is much higher than any other recorded over the past decade, and may set an all-time mark for such incidents in the state over the course of a year. In addition, the number of shootings that have resulted in fatalities is way above the annual average since 2010.

As we pointed out in an October 1 post published after the officer-involved shooting total for 2019 passed fifty, there have been so many incidents like these over the past eleven-plus months that the sort of attention paid to the Colorado Springs homicide of nineteen-year-old De'Von Bailey on August 3 is very much an anomaly. The vast majority of the shootings have received only cursory coverage.

No law enforcement agents have been killed in the 2019 officer-involved shootings to date, though Fort Lupton Police Department Sergeant Chris Pelton was badly injured in gunplay on December 2; he was shot in the face, but is reportedly making a remarkable recovery. The three Colorado law enforcement officials who lost their lives in the line of duty this year did so in non-shooting events. Colorado State Patrol Corporal Daniel Groves and CSP Master Trooper William Moden were struck by vehicles, while Colorado Department of Corrections Sergeant Joshua Eli Voth perished in an explosion.

Putting 2019's bloodshed into a larger context can get tricky, since no definitive record of police shootings in Colorado was kept until recent years. In 2015, the Colorado General Assembly passed Senate Bill 15-217, which calls for state and local law enforcement agencies to inform the Division of Criminal Justice whenever the agency "employs a peace officer who is involved in an officer-involved shooting that results in a person suspected of criminal activity being shot at by the officer." The division is then tasked with analyzing and reporting the data annually.

The most recent of these surveys was released this past March and covers eight and a half years, from January 1, 2010, to June 30, 2018. This graphic depicts the number of incidents each year with the exception of 2018, when just the first six months are represented:

As this chart shows, the highest number of officer-involved shootings was 52 in 2015; that would seem to imply that 2019 has crushed that record, with eleven days still to go. But the document states that the information is based on reports from 55 law enforcement agencies, and there are many more than that in Colorado; this page on the PoliceOne website contains links to 204. As a result, it's possible that some officer-related shootings from the past weren't documented.

Citizens were killed in 47 percent of the officer-involved shootings tracked from 2010 to 2018, and 32 percent more were injured. This year proved to be much deadlier: The fatality percentage is a staggering 60.3 percent, while injuries stand at 33.8 percent. In 5.9 percent of the cases, no one was hurt.

As for where the most shootings took place, Denver and Colorado Springs, the state's two most populous cities, lead the pack. But several smaller communities have experienced more than their expected share, including Lakewood, the setting for three officer-involved shootings (two of them fatal) since November 7, and modestly sized Fort Lupton, which has seen two deadly gun-downs this year.

Here's a look at nine Colorado cities and towns with multiple officer-involved shootings in 2019, supplemented by population information from the 2010 U.S. Census:

Denver
Population: 619,968
Officer-involved shootings: 10
Fatalities: 7

Colorado Springs
Population: 427,005
Officer-involved shootings: 7
Fatalities: 5

Pueblo
Population: 107,159
Officer-involved shootings: 6 (plus one in Pueblo West)
Fatalities: 6 (including the Pueblo West incident)

Lakewood
Population: 144,057
Officer-involved shootings: 6
Fatalities: 4

Westminster
Population: 107,637
Officer-involved shootings: 5
Fatalities: 2

Aurora
Population: 332,144
Officer-involved shootings: 5
Fatalities: 2

Loveland
Population: 67,049
Officer-involved shootings: 3
Fatalities: 2

Fort Lupton
Population: 7,433
Officer-involved shootings: 2
Fatalities: 2

Grand Junction
Population: 59,710
Officer-involved shootings: 2
Fatalities: 1

And this is the complete roster of officer-involved shootings in Colorado in 2019 to date, with notations about fatalities and injuries.

1. Jan. 9, 2019 – Pueblo (injury)
2. Jan. 10, 2019 – Westminster (injury)
3. Jan. 12, 2019 – Colorado Springs (fatality)
4. Jan. 12, 2019 — Fort Collins (fatality)
5. Jan. 13, 2019 – Pueblo West (fatality)
6. Jan. 14, 2019 – Frisco (injury)
7. Jan. 15, 2019 – Aurora (fatality)
8. Jan. 16, 2019 – Fort Lupton (fatality)
9. Jan. 16, 2019 – Evans (injury)
10. Jan. 16, 2019 – Englewood (injury)
11. Jan. 23, 2019 — Colorado Springs (injury)
12. Jan. 27, 2019 — Denver (injury)
13. Feb. 1, 2019 — Denver (fatality)
14. Feb. 6, 2019 – LaSalle (fatality)
15. Feb. 12, 2019 — Denver (injury)
16. Feb. 25, 2019 – Denver (fatality)
17. Feb. 28, 2019 — Lone Tree (fatality)
18. March 4, 2019 – Aurora (fatality)
19. March 11, 2019 – Lakewood (fatality)
20. March 23, 2019 – Grand Junction (fatality)
21. March 28, 2019 — Aurora (injury)
22. April 9, 2019 – Pueblo (fatality)
23. April 15, 2019 — Colorado Springs (no injuries)
24. April 24, 2019 — Colorado Springs (fatality)
25. April 26, 2019 — Westminster (fatality)
26. April 27, 2019 — Pueblo (fatality)
27. April 29, 2019 — Lakewood (injury)
28. April 29, 2019 — Loveland (injury)
29. May 4, 2019 – Antonito (no injuries)
30. May 16, 2019 – Adams County (no injuries)
31. May 18, 2019 — Colorado Springs (fatality)
32. May 19, 2019 – Trinidad (fatality)
33. June 8, 2019 – Weld County (injury)
34. June 14, 2019 — Grand Junction (injury)
35. June 14, 2019 — Morgan County (no injuries)
36. June 18, 2019 – Jefferson County (fatality)
37. June 28, 2019 — Pueblo (fatality)
38. July 1, 2019 — Denver (fatality)
39. July 4, 2019 — Denver (fatality)
40. July 18, 2019 — Pueblo (fatality)
41. July 23, 2019 — Colorado Springs (fatality)
42. July 31, 2019 — Denver (injury)
43. Aug. 3, 2019 — Colorado Springs (fatality)
44. Aug. 5, 2019 — Rifle (fatality)
45. Aug. 7, 2019 — Costilla County (injury)
46. Aug. 15, 2019 — Denver (fatality)
47. Aug. 31, 2019 — Denver (fatality)
48. Sept. 18, 2019 — Westminster (injury)
49. Sept. 20, 2019 — Lakewood (fatality)
50. Sept. 26, 2019 — Westminster (injury)
51. Sept. 29, 2019 — Monument (fatality)
52. Oct. 10, 2019 — Aurora (injury)
53. Oct. 20, 2019 — Aurora (injury)
54. Oct. 21, 2019 — Denver (fatality)
55. Nov. 1, 2019 – Adams County (fatality)
56. Nov. 1, 2019 – Boulder (fatality)
57. Nov. 7, 2019 — Lakewood (injury)
58. Nov. 11, 2019 — Lakewood (fatality)
59. Nov. 11, 2019 — Loveland (fatality)
60. Nov. 14, 2019 — Greeley-Evans (fatality)
61. Nov. 23, 2019 — Pueblo (fatality)
62. Nov. 24, 2019 — Estes Park (injury)
63. Nov. 29, 2019 — Adams County (fatality)
64. Dec. 1, 2019 – Loveland (fatality)
65. Dec. 3, 2019 — Fort Lupton (injury)
66. Dec. 5, 2019 – Avon (injury)
67. Dec. 6, 2019 — Westminster (fatality)
68. Dec. 19, 2019 — Lakewood (fatality)

According to the Lakewood Police Department, the call that led to its most recent officer-involved shooting came in at around 3:15 p.m. on December 19. At that time, officers were dispatched to a duplex in the 2400 block of Youngfield Street on a report that a 47-year-old man was "causing a disturbance and destroying property inside the home."

Over the next two hours, cops tried to communicate with the man, but he refused to leave the residence. Then, at approximately 5:20 p.m., officers saw fire and smoke that prompted them to gain entry to the duplex. Once they did, the suspect is said to have come after them — and he was allegedly armed.The LPD account maintains that attempts to "use less lethal weapons did not stop the attack and the suspect was subsequently shot." He was taken to a local hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. In the meantime, ten Lakewood agents were treated for smoke inhalation.

The incident is currently under investigation by the Lakewood Police Department, West Metro Fire Rescue and the Jefferson County Critical Incident Response Team. The officer who killed the thus-far-unidentified man has been placed on administrative leave, as is standard procedure in such incidents.

Which have taken place all too frequently over the course of 2019. Click to read "A Report of Officer Involved Shootings in Colorado: January 1, 2010-June 30, 2018."

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