In 2019 through September, 51 police shootings have taken place in Colorado — an average in excess of one per week. And while definitive statistics are elusive, the state appears to be on pace to register the most officer-involved shootings of any year this decade.
There's been so much law enforcement gunplay in 2019 that the sort of attention paid to the Colorado Springs incident that led to the death of nineteen-year-old De'Von Bailey on August 3 is very much an anomaly. The vast majority of these events have received only cursory coverage by the press even though nearly 60 percent of them involved suspect deaths.
Thus far, no Colorado cops have been killed in such shootings, and none are facing criminal charges. Prosecutors consider all the actions they've analyzed to date to be justified.
No corner of the state has gone untouched by officer-involved shootings. But data and details compiled from a variety of law enforcement and media sources reveal assorted trends just as troubling as the overall total.
By far the bloodiest month for officer-involved shootings this year was the first one. Ten of the incidents took place during an eight-day span from January 9 to 16, with another pair bringing the overall sum that month to twelve. The other eight months have generally corresponded to the one-shooting-each-week rate, except for a flare-up in April.
Here's the breakdown.
January — 12
February — 5
March — 4
April — 7
June — 5
July — 5
August — 5
September — 4
Given Denver's status as Colorado's largest metropolis, it's no surprise that the Mile High City leads the pack with the most officer-involved shootings, racking up nine in nine months — six of them fatal. Colorado Springs, the runner-up in terms of residents, finishes second with seven shootings, five of them resulting in deaths.
However, several far smaller communities saw more officer-involved shootings than expected given their population.
Examples? Pueblo, which is around one-sixth the size of Denver, has been the setting for five officer-involved shootings in 2019, with a sixth occurring in Pueblo West. Five of these six shootings included a fatality.
Westminster, similar in size to Pueblo, hasn't done much better: Four officer-involved shootings have happened there this year, one fatal.
Continue to see the officer-involved-shooting breakdown by community. We've supplemented the digits with population figures as of the 2010 U.S. Census for those that have had more than one incident of this type.
Officer-involved shootings: 9
Officer-involved shootings: 7
Officer-involved shootings: 5 (plus one in Pueblo West)
Fatalities: 5 (including the Pueblo West incident)
Officer-involved shootings: 4
Officer-involved shootings: 3
Officer-involved shootings: 3
Officer-involved shootings: 2
In addition, there's been one officer-involved shooting in each of the following locations: Adams County, Antonito, Costilla County, Englewood, Evans, Fort Collins, Fort Lupton, Frisco, Jefferson County, LaSalle, Lone Tree, Loveland, Monument, Morgan County, Rifle, Trinidad and Weld County.
Of the 51 officer-involved shootings through September, thirty involved fatalities. In most cases, a suspect was shot to death by a law enforcer, but there have been several exceptions. In a January 12 shooting in Fort Collins, for instance, the Larimer County coroner's office eventually concluded that Joshua Moore, 36, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Injuries were recorded in seventeen of the other 21 officer-involved shootings. In the remaining four, shots were fired but no one was hit.
The following roster chronologically lists each officer-involved shooting in the state, noting their locale and whether there was a fatality or injury.
1. January 9 — Pueblo (injury)
2. January 10 — Westminster (injury)
3. January 12 — Colorado Springs (fatality)
4. January 12 — Fort Collins (fatality)
5. January 13 — Pueblo West (fatality)
6. January 14 — Frisco (injury)
7. January 15 — Aurora (fatality)
8. January 16 — Fort Lupton (fatality)
9. January 16 — Evans (injury)
10. January 16 — Englewood (injury)
11. January 23 — Colorado Springs (injury)
12. January 27 — Denver (injury)
13. February 1 — Denver (fatality)
14. February 6 — LaSalle (fatality)
15. February 12 — Denver (injury)
16. February 25 — Denver (fatality)
17. February 28 — Lone Tree (fatality)
18. March 4 — Aurora (fatality)
19. March 11 — Lakewood (fatality)
20. March 23 — Grand Junction (fatality)
21. March 2 — Aurora (injury)
22. April 9 — Pueblo (fatality)
23. April 15 — Colorado Springs (no injuries)
24. April 24 — Colorado Springs (fatality)
25. April 26 — Westminster (fatality)
26. April 27 — Pueblo (fatality)
27. April 29 — Lakewood (injury)
28. April 29 — Loveland (injury)
29. May 4 — Antonito (no injuries)
30. May 16 — Adams County (no injuries)
31. May 18 — Colorado Springs (fatality)
32. May 19 — Trinidad (fatality)
33. June 8 — Weld County (injury)
34. June 14 — Grand Junction (injury)
35. June 14 — Morgan County (no injuries)
36. June 18 — Jefferson County (fatality)
37. June 28 — Pueblo (fatality)
38. July 1 — Denver (fatality)
39. July 4 — Denver (fatality)
40. July 18 — Pueblo (fatality)
41. July 23 — Colorado Springs (fatality)
42. July 31 — Denver (injury)
43. August 3 — Colorado Springs (fatality)
44. August 5 — Rifle (fatality)
45. August 7 — Costilla County (injury)
46. August 15 — Denver (fatality)
47. August 31 — Denver (fatality)
48. September 18 — Westminster (injury)
49. September 20 — Lakewood (fatality)
50. September 26 — Westminster (injury)
51. September 29 — Monument (fatality)
Comparing this total to that of recent years is a bit tricky. 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 reports was released this past March and covers eight and a half years, from January 1, 2010, to June 30, 2018. The following graphic depicts the number of incidents per year with the exception of 2018, when just the first six months are represented.
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As you can see, the highest number of officer-involved shootings in a year over the current decade was 52 in 2015. That would seem to imply that 2019 will surpass this total if just two more police shootings are recorded over the next three months. But the document, shared below, 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.
Whether or not 2019 sets a new mark for officer-involved shootings in Colorado this decade, it's clear that such incidents have become so common as to be treated as routine unless there are extraordinary circumstances — such as video showing De'Von Bailey being shot in the back as he ran away, or footage that captured the eerily similar gun-down of Allen George in Rifle on August 5.
These outliers demonstrate why Brittni Reed is trying so hard to convince authorities to release body-camera images related to her father, Josh Vigil, who was killed by Colorado Springs police on July 23. Without them, it's much easier for such matters to be dismissed or forgotten.