Daniel Alderete: Make My Day situation aside, shooting by cop deemed justified

The gunplay on 18th Avenue this past weekend has had divergent fall-out. In the beginning, Filberto Alderete was arrested in the killing of Jesus Sifuentes Jr. But in the end, Alderete was cleared under Make My Day circumstances.

Meanwhile, police responding to the incident shot Daniel Alderete, allegedly because he wouldn't drop his weapon -- and now, the officer involved has been absolved of wrongdoing.

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey's decision letter about the Alderete shooting contradicts initial claims made in the media by an Alderete family member that Daniel wasn't armed at the time he was shot. As such, it praises Officer Ethan Aldridge, who pulled the trigger, and Officer Jared Purdy, who had the chance to do so but didn't, for their actions. Here's a portion of the letter's conclusion:

Officer Aldridge and other officers were dispatched to what turned out to be the scene of a firearm related murder that had just occurred. The police dispatcher had informed officers that numerous gang members were fighting in the street with firearms involved and an individual had been shot. The victim's body was visible to Officer Aldridge on the front porch prior to being confronted by Alderete. Officer Aldridge encountered Alderete who emerged from a basement apartment with a handgun in his hand. Officer Aldridge ordered Alderete to drop the firearm. Instead of following the repeated lawful commands, Alderete continued to advance on Officer Aldridge with the firearm in his hand. The closing of distance by Alderete under these circumstances is an attack. Officer Aldridge fired a single shot to neutralize the deadly threat posed by Alderete. Alderete then dropped the weapon. Officer Aldridge stopped firing because the threat ended. Officer Purdy was positioned to fire, but held his fire at the last instant as Alderete's firearm separated from his hand.

Individuals armed with handguns, whether or not intending to shoot the officer they confront, act at their own peril when they fail to comply with the officers' lawful orders to drop their gun. Officers are forced to make life and death decisions in the blink of an eye when confronted by non-compliant armed assailants. In these fast moving, intense, armed confrontations, the officer's life hangs in the balance. They must process the degree of threat posed, determine the required response and take the action in less time than it takes the assailant to fire at them. There is no justification for placing our officers in this position.

Based on a review of the totality of facts developed in this investigation, we could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was unreasonable for Officer Aldridge to fire the single shot that wounded Alderete. Therefore, no criminal charges are fileable against Officer Aldridge for his conduct in this incident. He was legally justified under Colorado law. Officers Aldridge and Purdy are commended for their professional response to this life-threatening confrontation and their weapon control in neutralizing and controlling the threat with a single shot.

Daniel Alderete survived his wound.

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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