A court hearing in Colorado Springs this week provided insight aplenty into how attorneys are likely to argue that the August 3 police killing of De'Von Bailey, nineteen, represented excessive and unlawful force.
During the session, Daniel Kay, an attorney for Laurence Stoker, who was with Bailey at the time the latter was shot from behind while running away, presented evidence that one of the police officers in the incident had been involved in the fatal gun-down of a different suspect attempting to flee on foot eight years earlier. And two years before that, the officer was accused of beating a man to whom the City of Colorado Springs eventually paid a $50,000 settlement.
Stoker, also nineteen, was Bailey's cousin. The two were interrogated by Sergeant Alan Van't Land and Officer Blake Evenson after what was originally depicted as a "personal robbery" on the 2400 block of East Fountain Boulevard in Colorado Springs.
Both V'ant Land and Evenson were wearing body cameras, and after the shooting, the City of Colorado Springs released a compilation of the footage they recorded along with audio from a 911 call made by the person identified as the robbery victim. The Reverend Promise Lee, speaking for the Bailey family, described the resulting clip, available here, as a "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."
The video confirms that Bailey had a gun in one pocket of his basketball shorts, and while he can be seen reaching toward the opening 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 pointing it at anyone. It appears that 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.
Information that emerged from a discovery motion at the hearing, as detailed in an outline by Kay provided to Westword, include disputes related to the account of the man who said Bailey and Stoker robbed him. For instance, he told police that the pair stole his wallet, but when an officer asked for his driver's license, he reached into his pocket to pull it out.
Kay intends to argue that Stoker was acting in self-defense following an altercation between the three rather than attempting to rob anyone.
More potentially explosive was information about two previous episodes involving V'ant Land. The first happened on June 2, 2009, when he was among four cops accused of roughing up Douglas Sellier, 51, while trying to enforce a protection order. In Sellier v. Flores, a court document accessible below, Van't Land is said to have struck Sellier three times in the shoulder in an exchange that found another officer using a taser. Two years later, the Colorado Springs Independent reports, the city ponied up $50,000 to settle the case.
The next year, in December 2012, Van't Land was among the officers who ended the life of Robert Kresky. According to a report from the 4th Judicial District DA's office, Kresky, the alleged leader of a criminal organization involved in burglaries, narcotics trafficking and more, led cops on a car chase before leaving the vehicle. A pursuit on foot ensued, with Kresky allegedly yelling, "Fuck you, I'll shoot you!" and holding his hand near his waistband while running for several blocks. But after confronting him in a parking lot and shooting him fourteen times, police officers including Van't Land discovered that Kresky was unarmed; his gun was still in his vehicle.
The DA's office, which found the shooting of Kresky to be justified in March 2013, is the same one that is determining if criminal charges are warranted in the Bailey matter, despite Governor Jared Polis's suggestion that the matter be turned over to an independent agency. The Bailey family continues to make the same request, to no avail.
Click to read Sellier v. Flores.
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