The grand jury's "No True Bill" conclusion — the term means that no indictments will be forthcoming against Sergeant Alan Van't Land and officer Blake Evenson, the two cops in the spotlight — was quickly followed by an open letter to the community from Colorado Springs Police Chief Vince Niski. In it, he offers a nod to investigating agencies and the jurors themselves: "The Colorado Springs Police Department fully trusts and supports this process, we trust in the professional work conducted by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office and the District Attorney's Office, and we trust in the decision made by the community members who comprised the Grand Jury."
This take stands in stark contrast to the reactions of those representing Bailey's loved ones. Pastor Promise Lee, a past Westword interview subject, communicating through an intermediary, notes that the teen's family has not issued an official statement at this writing but is grieving. And Mari Newman of Denver-based Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP, their attorney, maintains that "it is certainly not a surprise to get a bad result when a tainted investigation is presented to a grand jury by a biased prosecutor."
Also weighing in is Colorado Springs lawyer Dan Kay, who's assisting Newman and company as well as working on behalf of Lawrence Stoker, Bailey's nineteen-year-old cousin. Stoker was with Bailey during the incident and has been accused of third-degree assault in the alleged (and largely debunked) robbery of Anthony Love that resulted in the police being called in the first place.
Notes Kay via email: "They are pursuing a case against Lawrence Stoker given there is overwhelming evidence he acted in self defense and substantial proof that Love is lying and is a serial swatter with six prior similar accusations.... Let’s contrast that with no charges where a young man is shot repeatedly in the back while running away. Is this justice?"
How Cops May Get Away With De'Von Bailey Homicide." As that piece noted, Bailey had a gun on his person at the time of the shooting — "deep within his basketball shorts," as attorney Darold Killmer, Newman's partner, put it. The weapon was retrieved by the officers who cut those shorts off Bailey after he hit the pavement on the 2400 block of East Fountain Boulevard in the Springs.
Bailey can be seen reaching for his pocket at least twice during his interactions with Van't Land and Evenson. Early on in video captured by Van't Land, he shifts his hand in that direction and begins trying to snake his fingers into the opening in the fabric, only to immediately move both hands away from his body and then raise them over his head after being ordered to do so. In the Evenson material, Bailey appears to be moving a hand toward the pocket again while sprinting away from the officers, only to quickly abandon the effort when it becomes clear that getting access to it is impossible.
Of course, Bailey never came close to grabbing the gun, much less brandishing it at Van't Land and Evenson. In Killmer's view, his only thought within a second or two of making the decision to run appears to have been to keep running rather than to shoot at the cops or anyone else. He made it just a few steps before the first projectile tore into him.
Here's a video that compiles the body-camera footage of Van't Land and Evenson, preceded by 911 audio. The Van't Land material gets under way at around the ten-minute mark, while Evenson's starts at about 12:30.
Warning: The imagery is extremely graphic and may disturb some readers.
Our nation is grappling with difficult challenges concerning race and how we treat one another. It is more important now at this moment in time that our law enforcement agencies go above and beyond to maintain public trust and confidence.Open letter from Colorado Springs Police Chief Vince Niski
Fairness and objectivity are key to ensuring the public trusts the integrity of any investigation. Given how the events have unfolded surrounding the death of De’Von Bailey — the public details and video that have been shared and the questions that have been raised by the general public — I hope that El Paso county takes steps above those legally required to additionally maximize the public trust in the investigation.
I personally believe Colorado Springs residents would be best served by an independent review of the events surrounding De’Von Bailey’s death. An independent review would ensure the public’s confidence in the results, and maintain trust in law enforcement going forward. I encourage the El Paso County district attorney's office to consider turning the investigation’s findings over to another local jurisdiction for independent review, and if warranted, additional information gathering.
To Our Community:
As Chief of the Colorado Springs Police Department, I wanted to reach out to each and every one of you regarding the recent Grand Jury decision.
There is no doubt that the community of Colorado Springs has been tested over the last few months. What happened on August 3, 2019, is something neither police officers nor citizens ever want to experience. The loss of a son, a friend, a community member, is a devastating event that impacts all of us.
This incident, like all other officer-involved shootings, was handed over to a professional outside law enforcement agency, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, which follows Colorado law. Their completed investigation was then turned over to the Fourth Judicial District Attorney's Office to make a ruling or refer the case to a Grand Jury — which was their ultimate decision. The Grand Jury's decision of a "No True Bill" is defined as a legal procedure to dismiss the defendants when the Grand Jury does not find enough evidence to charge the defendant with violating a law. The Colorado Springs Police Department fully trusts and supports this process, we trust in the professional work conducted by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office and the District Attorney's Office, and we trust in the decision made by the community members who comprised the Grand Jury.
I want to thank everyone for their patience and to all those who have provided input and engaged with us during this time. As an organization, we have heard your concerns and suggestions. My command staff and I are actively working with our partners to find better ways to be transparent and provide information faster, while maintaining the integrity of investigations.
I know this process has been difficult, but as we move forward together as a community, my officers and I remain committed to proudly serving you, the citizens of Colorado Springs.
Chief Vince Niski
Colorado Springs Police Department