Earlier this month, 22-year-old David Wheat Jr. was killed after being shot eleven times by Fort Collins police officers.
The incident shares elements of two themes we've been exploring in this space of late.
The first is suicide by cop, recently decried by the Las Vegas Police Department as a growing, and troubling, national phenomenon after officers shot and wounded Aurora's Patrick Stoltz at a Vegas hotel.
The second involves law-enforcement tactics when police confront an intoxicated or psychologically disturbed suspect. An example, detailed earlier today, is the case of Sam Forgy, a CU Boulder student shot and killed by Boulder officers while apparently high on LSD.
Wheat, for his part, was reportedly suicidal and had wounded a woman with a knife when Fort Collins cops gunned him down.
The two officers, Adam Brunjes and Tyler Patterson, fired eleven shots and hit Wheat eleven times.
Now, Eighth Judicial District D.A. Clifford Riedel has deemed the officers' actions justified in a decision letter on view below.
At approximately 3:53 a.m. on July 18, the letter states, officers were dispatched to 1225 West Prospect, apartment K-107, on a report of a dispute between Wheat and his brother, Davis.
David was said to be "intoxicated and suicidal." Davis subsequently told investigators that his brother had been drinking tequila and may have taken "multiple painkillers."
Davis and two women, Breann Anderson and Samantha Mosco, lived at the apartment, and David had been staying with the trio of late. However, Anderson told the 911 operator that David was angry at her and Mosco and had announced that he was "not afraid to hit a woman."
The situation escalated after David mentioned suicide by cop, then grabbed a steak knife and swung it at Davis, who fled the apartment to the parking lot along with the two women.
When officers Brunjes and Patterson arrived, the women frantically gestured for their help as David moved rapidly toward Mosco and struck her with something shiny. It was the knife, it was later determined, and he'd stabbed her in the shoulder.
In response, Patterson tackled David, bringing them both to the ground, with Brunjes smacking the suspect with his police baton to keep his partner safe.
Around that time, Patterson heard someone yelling, "He has a knife! He has a knife!"
Patterson stood, and when he saw the blade, he and Brunjes both drew their guns and ordered David to drop the knife and stay on the ground.
Instead, David rose to his feet and began "taunting the police," according to the report. He reportedly said, "Do it! Do it, pussies!" and "What are you waiting for?"
The officers responded by warning David that he'd be shot if he came at them, to which he's quoted as saying, "I don't care."
After that, the letter goes on, David "lunged towards the officers, whereupon they fired their handguns multiple times."
The letter doesn't specify the number of shots, but the Fort Collins Coloradoan confirms that Patterson and Brunjes cumulatively fired eleven times, with each bullet hitting David.
One shot also struck the knife, snapping off its blade. Here's the first photo of the weapon included in the decision letter....
...and the second:
Afterward, David's father, David Wheat Sr., complained about the shooting to 9News. "They could've used a rubber band and paper wad and knocked my son over, that's how messed up he was," the senior Wheat said.
District Attorney Riedel disagrees. Here are the concluding passages from the letter:
Based upon the totality of the evidence, I find that Mr. David Wheat committed the only criminal offenses during this incident. Had he survived, sufficient evidence exited to charge him with multiple felony offenses including Attempted First Degree Murder of Ms. Mosco, Attempted First Degree Murder of Officer Patterson, Attempted First Degree Murder of Officer Brunjes, as well as multiple counts of First Degree Assault with a Deadly Weapon.Continue to see a Fox31 report from shortly after the shooting, followed by the aforementioned decision letter.
Officer Patterson's decision to physically tackle David Wheat, despite the fact that he saw something shiny in his hand that could have injured Officer Patterson, clearly saved Ms. Mosco from receiving additional stab wounds and very likely saved her life. Officer Brunjes's attempt to use his police baton to subdue David Wheat was appropriate and necessary. Despite having been tackled to the ground and struck with a police baton, David Wheat remained in possession of a knife, in very close proximity to the officers and refused repeated commands to drop the knife and not to advance towards the officers or he would be shot. When David Wheat lunged at the l=officers with the knife, Officer Patterson and Officer Brunjes had every right to defend themselves with deadly force.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.