The fatal police shooting of De'Von Bailey in Colorado Springs on August 3 went national on August 15, with the release of body-camera video showing officers killing him as he fled; see it below. Since then, a petition calling for an independent investigation into the incident has collected more than 2,400 signatures at this writing, and a Facebook page dubbed REST IN POWER De'Von Bailey — the link references the seven shots the cops fired at the nineteen-year-old, four of which struck him — has become an online meeting place for those outraged by what went down.
Reverend Promise Lee, the designated spokesperson for the Bailey family, sees both of these developments as an indication that people of color living in Colorado Springs will not be satisfied by inaction on the part of authorities.
"We knew something like this would happen at some point," Lee allows. "We didn't know who it was going to be or when it was going to be, but the ingredients for something like this to happen were there — and some of those ingredients were tone-deafness by the City of Colorado Springs and alienation of proper voices in the community. It was just a matter of time before we had this explosion."
Lee adds: "This has just fueled something that's been ticking for decades."
Like attorney Darold Killmer of the Denver-based law firm Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP, Lee wants to see the case handed over to the office of Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser rather than remaining under the umbrella of the 4th Judicial District DA's Office, which both men see as being too cozy with the Colorado Springs Police Department and the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, the original investigating agency. The state AG's office can't take control unless the 4th Judicial District DA's office, a county agency, asks it to do so, and that hasn't happened thus far. However, Lawrence Pacheco, Weiser's director of communications, confirms that his office has been in contact with grieving parties.
On Tuesday morning, Pacheco notes via email, "Staff from the Attorney General's office met with members of the Colorado Springs community who came up to Denver...to deliver the petition, and we listened to their concerns. There is pain in the community, and it was important for us to listen and have dialogue. The Attorney General’s office has also been in touch with local law enforcement. Our hope is to learn from this incident and work with communities so that they feel safe, and work with law enforcement to ensure they have the tools they need to protect the communities they serve."
In the meantime, Lee is hoping that Governor Jared Polis will advocate for the state AG to be put in charge of determining if criminal charges against the officers are warranted. Polis's office has not yet responded to Westword's inquiries on this subject. If and when a representative of the governor gets back to us, we'll update this post.
The aforementioned video includes edited footage from body cameras worn by Sergeant Alan Van't Land and officer Blake Evenson, and it shows the officers questioning Bailey and his nineteen-year-old cousin, Lawrence "Spazz" Stoker, after what was originally reported as a "personal robbery" on the 2400 block of East Fountain Boulevard in the Springs. Bailey had a gun in one pocket of his basketball shorts, and while he can be seen reaching toward the opening in the fabric on two occasions (once shortly after encountering the cops and again as he sprinted in the opposite direction), he never comes close to grabbing it, much less brandishing it at anyone. He was simply trying to get away when Van't Land and Evenson opened fire on him from behind.
Here's the clip, preceded by 911 audio. The Van't Land material gets under way at around the ten-minute point, while Evenson's starts at about 12:30.
Warning: The imagery is extremely graphic and may disturb some readers.
Reverend Lee, who describes himself as a friend of the Bailey family, has had his own interactions with law enforcement. More than four decades ago, when he was sixteen, the Colorado Springs Independent reports, he shot and killed a Fort Carson soldier over a misbegotten drug deal. But after serving his time, he became a pastor — he leads the Springs' Relevant Word Christian Cultural Center — and has become such an exemplar of redemption and community service that outgoing governor John Hickenlooper granted him a pardon in December 2018.
Following Bailey's death, Lee says, "the community is feeling a plethora of things. People have been traumatized — the family, obviously, but also people who witnessed it and were on the scene. And it's not just African-Americans. It's people across all ethnic and racial groups who are angry about what happened. It seems like cowboys in the Old West, just gunning people down. They feel the police department and [Colorado Springs Mayor] John Suthers have been mendacious in their dealings for some time, and this just perpetuates that image from their perspective."
In the past, Lee contends, Suthers has "met with clergy periodically about issues in our community. But what happens at some of these meetings is that he does all the talking. I would think if the mayor really wanted to have his finger on the pulse of a community he doesn't understand or is not familiar with, he would do more listening than talking. When he campaigned, he talked about an open-door policy. It's one thing to have an open door, but you have to have open ears, too" — and Lee is not convinced that either of these things are true given that requests to meet with Suthers after the De'Von Bailey shooting have not yet led to a sit-down.
When Westword reached out to Suthers's office on this subject yesterday, we were informed that he was unavailable. But this afternoon, following the original publication of this post, we received a response on his behalf from spokesperson Jamie Fabos: "The Mayor has not been asked for a sit-down with the family, but he is willing to do that if the family’s legal counsel would approve it." Fabos adds: "Because the family is represented by counsel who has indicated potential for adverse action against the city, there are restrictions on communication between represented parties."
On August 6, Mayor Suthers delivered a more detailed statement about the shooting:
The City of Colorado Springs and CSPD recognize the concerns of many citizens of our community following the officer-involved shooting of Devon Bailey.... It is in the best interest of everyone involved, and our entire community, to ensure that the incident is fully and effectively investigated and an appropriate conclusion is reached. We know that there can be frustration with the time this takes, but we cannot compromise the investigation by failing to spend the appropriate time gathering the facts; that would serve no one.
We pledge that the City and CSPD will work cooperatively and diligently with the investigating agency, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, to ensure a thorough evaluation of the evidence, and there is a robust process in place to accomplish this. The evidence gathered by the EPSO will be provided to the district attorney, who will review the evidence and apply the Colorado law regarding use of force by police officers. The DA can decide whether or not to bring charges or refer the matter to a Grand Jury to make the determination. If the DA decides not to charge an officer with criminal conduct, he is required by law to issue a public report explaining his findings. A Grand Jury, in its discretion, can issue a report concerning its decision.
A credible investigation and charging decision takes time, and I ask the community to exercise patience as we allow the investigative and judicial process to work.
The El Paso County Sheriff's Office has handed over its findings to the 4th Judicial DA's Office, but that doesn't mean the inquiry is permanently closed. "We had a meeting with them on Monday, and the language around this is really interesting," Lee feels. "The investigation was concluded and submitted, but the DA's office has the ability to say, 'We need you to go back and investigate this more, or else we will investigate it.' So in that way, it's still ongoing."
From Lee's perspective, the video above is "a fabricated documentary. What we wanted to see was the raw footage, and we didn't get that. We got an edited version. And if you go back and look at the video, you can see that they paused in various places to make it more in favor of the Colorado Springs Police Department's version of this thing. Yes, he did have his hands down, but he responded to the officer and lifted his hands up. And here's something people are perhaps missing: You've got an officer pointing at you and you've got your hands up, and then, all of a sudden, another officer is coming around the back of you. If I'm in that situation, I'm running also, and I'm a 62-year-old black man. And where was the less-than-lethal force? Where were the tasers? Where were the rubber bullets? Where were the sandbags? And if De'Von was such a threat, why didn't the first officer say, 'Put your hands on your head and drop to your knees?'"
These questions and more are expected to be asked at upcoming protests and demonstrations related to the shooting, but Lee reveals that many of them will take place with little notice beforehand in an attempt to prevent possible interference from authorities — evidence of distrust toward police among activist that's only deepened since the shooting. Lee acknowledges that street closures near the site of an August 13 press conference about the matter may have been coincidental, but he says some participants are worried that similar shutdowns will be put in place at future events as a way of decreasing attendance.
Bailey's family, meanwhile, "is trying to get back to life in some normalized fashion — but it will never be normalized, because their loved one has been taken. It's challenging, and at times the fight seems insurmountable, because we're fighting for justice, and we're fighting against people who are on a particular side of things — fighting against people who don't understand us, who don't value us, who are insensitive to us, who in some respects are afraid of us. It's difficult to fight people who fear you, and it's difficult to have dialogue with people who don't value you. And the family is reminded of these circumstances every time they see a police car or hear the name of John Suthers or the district attorney. They're reminded every time they go by the park where the incident occurred. It's a constant reminder, a constant digging into the wound, and it will take a long time for a scab to form and healing to take place."
Still, Lee stresses, Bailey's supporters aren't going to stay silent until the district attorney makes a charging announcement. "Procrastination is a tool that's been used by these systems for a long time. They have us wait, wait, wait, hoping that we're going to go away. But the people are not going to be deterred. This has energized them. They're not going away."
Here's the text from the petition.
To: Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser
Justice for De'Von Bailey — Independent Investigation
• Arrange for an objective institution to conduct this investigation, such as the Colorado Bureau of Investigation or FBI.
• Get an independent special prosecutor to present facts to the grand jury.
• Release police report, officer names, and all camera footage.
• Establish Citizen Review Boards statewide for investigations into officer-involved incidents.
Why is this important?
In light of the shooting of 19-yr-old De'Von Bailey by a CSPD officer, the people of Colorado Springs need real actions from state leadership that support our community’s fair expectations for:
• The community does not feel this shooting is being taken seriously or that justice is possible with the current approach to investigation. The El Paso County Sheriff's Office is not qualified to conduct an unbiased investigation of the shooting of De'Von Bailey by a CSPD officer and DA Dan May is not qualified to assess this investigation. First, the working relationship between the two departments is very close. The urge to protect one another will be strong. Second, Pete Carey works directly under the sheriff. Pete Carey was with CSPD from 1984-2018, and was Chief of Police from 2011. Third, Mayor Suthers mentored current District Attorney Dan May while himself heading the DA office. Fourth, Chief Investigator Bret Poole at the DA’s office moved from CSPD in December of 2018.
Short Term: We need a more objective institution to conduct this investigation, such as the Colorado Bureau of Investigation or FBI, and an independent special prosecutor present facts to the grand jury.
Long Term: We need to establish Citizen Review Boards statewide for investigations into officer-involved incidents.
The community feels there is no effort to keep them updated on facts and processes. We have not been given access to even the most basic information, such as police reports, officer names, etc.
Short Term: Release of police report, officer names, and all camera footage would go a very long way in reassuring the community.
Short Term: Timelines and more open communication about when and how information will be released would also help.
Long Term: Working with a Citizen’s Review Board to establish better processes for interfacing with the community during officer-involved incidents.
• The community is further traumatized by the ongoing imbalance of treatment of People of Color compared to the white population. At the peaceful protest held on August 5, 2019, moving from City Hall to the Police Operations Center, two white motorcyclists who are part of the Twin Outlaw Brotherhood confronted protestors, pointing guns in their faces after a dispute.
• CSPD took minutes to respond. There is footage of protesters pleading for them to come help through the doors.
• CSPD charged the motorcyclists with disorderly conduct only; no further charges. This light touch, when seen in comparison to the shooting of a man who was running away (verified on video), is traumatizing to the community.
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• CSPD made statements like “It’s within our legal rights to kill you” to De’Von’s friends and family who were attending protest.
Short Term: Speak on the disparate treatment of these men.
Long Term: Implement implicit bias screening within the hiring process and more robust training within the ongoing training.
Long Term: Conduct an objective investigation/audit into implicit biases within the CSPD in order to properly build a plan for change. The community needs to see commitment to change.
Editor's note: This post has been updated to include a comment from Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers.