All About Hero Who Died During Aurora Cop's Second Shooting in 34 Days

The late Richard "Gary" Black.
The late Richard "Gary" Black. Family photo
Editor's note: Following the publication of this item, we reported about the news conference staged later on August 2 in regard to the fatal shooting of Richard "Gary" Black under the headline "Richard Black's Actions Led to Police Shooting Death, Aurora Chief Says." Continue for our original piece.

This afternoon, Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz is expected to hold a press conference about the police shooting of 73-year-old Richard "Gary" Black, who was killed while defending his family from a naked home invader identified as Dajon Harper, 26. Metz is expected to address the fact that one of the officers involved in the Black tragedy had taken part in a fatal gun-down just 34 days earlier.

But for attorney Siddhartha Rathod, whose firm, Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC, represents Black's family, "The key is that he was a hero. He should be sitting in the mayor's office getting a commendation, not in the Aurora morgue."

Rathod describes Black like so: "He's a Citadel graduate who went to the Vietnam War. He was a lieutenant and received the Bronze Star-Oak Leaf Cluster combination medal and a Purple Heart simultaneously. He then became a federal agent with the IRS, and neighbors say if someone wasn't doing well health-wise, he'd come over and mow the lawn, pull the weeds. He was that type of man."

Black and his wife, Jeanette, "were married for 39 years," Rathod goes on, "and he had three adult children and grandchildren that he loved. He put up a zipline in his back yard for his grandkids. Family was very important to him."

He died proving it.

click to enlarge Investigators at the scene the morning after. - 9NEWS
Investigators at the scene the morning after.
On Sunday night, July 29, "there had been some sort of party going on in the neighborhood," Rathod notes, "and early on Monday morning, a naked man" — Harper — "kicked in the door to the house," located at 10609 East Montview Boulevard.

At the time, just past 1 a.m. on July 30, occupants of the home included Black, his wife, one of his adult children and an eleven-year-old male grandchild who was sleeping on the couch. Seconds after gaining entry, Rathod explains, "the man grabbed the boy, dragged him into the bathroom and began choking and trying to drown him."

Richard and his son "didn't know who this guy was," he continues. "They'd never seen him before. They rushed to the bathroom and started fighting him — but the man wouldn't stop. He kept attacking the boy and smashed a vase over Mr. Black's head."

At that point, Richard "ran out of the bathroom and got his 9mm handgun" — a legal weapon with which he was very familiar since "he had been in the Army and worked as a federal agent," Rathod emphasizes. "So he got his sidearm and went back into the bathroom. And as the man kept attacking his family, he shot him twice in the chest."

Harper, who Aurora police are calling a known gang member, died from his injuries.

click to enlarge Attorney Siddhartha Rathod represents the Black family. - RATHOD MOHAMEDBHAI LLC VIA YOUTUBE
Attorney Siddhartha Rathod represents the Black family.
Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC via YouTube
In the meantime, he recounts, Jeanette had "run out of the house and called 911. She told them what her husband was wearing and said the attacker was naked. She was outside when the police arrived, and she told them again, 'My husband is wearing this.'"

These precautions didn't prevent what happened next. Richard had moved from the bathroom to the living room when he was shot and killed by officers at the scene.

Was Richard mistaken for the intruder? Did the cops see him as a threat? Rathod isn't certain. "I haven't heard the officers' version, and we haven't seen the body-camera footage. We've been hearing that the police were possibly outside the house when they fired, but I don't know."

The officers who were part of the response team haven't been identified yet, which Rathod sees as "standard. But we've been told that the officer was involved in a shooting several weeks prior, and the officer has not been cleared in that shooting yet."

click to enlarge A coroner's office van leaving the Black residence after the shooting. - 9NEWS
A coroner's office van leaving the Black residence after the shooting.
Rathod says he's unclear about the details of the previous shooting, but Aurora Police Department representatives have confirmed it took place on June 27.

The APD account of what happened on the 27th states that officers responded to the 8900 block of East Colfax at approximately 12:30 a.m. in response to a report of shots fired and menacing with a gun. They subsequently spotted an African-American male matching what's characterized as a "very specific" description, but when they attempted to contact him, he took off on foot, leading them on a chase through the parking lot of the nearby Biltmore Motel.

The suspect was armed, the APD points out, and he's said to have ignored several verbal orders to drop the weapon. He then ran around a blind corner, after which he set up what's depicted as an ambush. Shortly thereafter, triggers were pulled and the suspect was hit. He was still alive when he arrived at an area hospital, but eventually succumbed to his wounds.

Here's a video of Chief Metz's press conference about the June 27 shooting:

In advance of the press conference about the Richard Black shooting, Metz shared a statement on the APD's Facebook and Twitter accounts underscored by a YouTube video shared yesterday. In the former, Metz wrote, "This incident was not only tragic, but incredibly heartbreaking for the involved family, the community and our department. This makes it even more difficult in not being able to provide information at this time as we are committed to being transparent and sharing information as soon as possible after a critical incident."

However, Metz conceded, "we also have a responsibility and obligation to ensure a thorough and credible investigation. The integrity of any investigation is paramount to promoting community and legal confidence; an investigation that can withstand scrutiny."

Over the day-plus since the shooting took place, the message stresses, "We have been conducting a comprehensive investigation with the help of the Denver Police Department and the 17th Judicial District. This investigation is extremely complex. In order to conduct a comprehensive investigation, we continue to methodically collect evidence, interview witnesses and review all available recordings, to include the body-worn cameras of all involved officers."

That one of those law enforcers had taken part in another fatal shooting just over a month earlier is unusual, but the situation in general isn't unique. An April lawsuit filed in the 2016 death of Dion Damon revealed that Denver police officer and defendant Jeffrey Motz had previously slain two people while on the job yet was only disciplined on a separate occasion when he didn't squeeze his trigger.

click to enlarge After the June 27 shooting. - DENVER7
After the June 27 shooting.
As Rathod sees it, "Each case needs to be analyzed individually. Simply because an officer was involved in a previous shooting, maybe one several years prior, doesn't mean he shouldn't continue to be an officer. The question comes into play regarding timing and the facts regarding those shootings. But obviously, if we have officers who've been involved in multiple shootings, a police department should take a closer look at that."

He intends to do likewise. In the meantime, he acknowledges that "both the Aurora Police Department and the City of Aurora have reached out to the family and our law firm. I look forward to what Chief Metz has to say, and based on our conversations, the city is taking this seriously — and we are hopeful for a thorough investigation."

In the meantime, the Black family is in a state of shock, for multiple, very understandable reasons. "Their grandson was in the hospital," Rathod says. "He's been released now, but everyone's very shaken up. Mr. Black was a beloved father, grandfather and husband. Now the family is not only having to deal with this horrible invasion into their home and assault on their grandchild, but they're also having to deal with the loss of Mr. Black."

He adds: "There's no question that Mr. Black is a hero. His actions saved the life of his grandchild. And there's no reason he should have been killed in his home."
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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