Jacinto Zavala: No Charges in Police Killing of Ex-Soldier Who Referenced Michael Brown

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Finally, at 3:19 a.m., the transcript cites Zavala "yelling profane words across the response to the initial challenges by a Greeley Officer," although he apparently believed "he was yelling at a neighbor." In addition, an officer can be heard ordering Zavala to "get on the ground," after which "gunshots are audible."

An autopsy subsequently revealed that Zavala had been struck by eight bullets (of fourteen fired), witth hits to his scalp, various extremities, his chest and his abdomen. His blood alcohol level was calculated at .220, nearly three times the legal limit.

Other portions of the document specify the "profane words" reportedly delivered by Zavala, including, "What, motherfucker? If you come over here, I swear to God, I'll fuck your shit up, old man." The report also maintains that Zavala raised and pointed his gun in the direction of officers, prompting them to open fire.

This last assertion contradicts claims of family members who spoke with 9News. They said the gun was aimed down, just as he'd said it was earlier in his conversation with the 911 operator. But Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck sides with the officers in the decision letter. An excerpt reads:
When verbal challenges were issued by an officer across the street, they were sufficiently loud that officers to the east, Christopher Holthusen, and Zavala himself could hear them. Rather than comply with the officers' commands, a command also repeatedly given by the dispatcher, to drop the gun and show the officers his hands, Zavala pointed the rifle at officers across the street. This action reasonably caused Officers One, Two and Three to believe that their lives, and the lives of fellow officers, were in immediate danger, causing each of them to fire their weapons.

Based on the facts gathered during this investigation and the legal analysis outlined above, I find that Officers One, Two and Three were justified in using deadly force against Zavala because they reasonably believed that it was necessary to defend themselves and others from Zavala's threatened use of physical force.

Here's a formal portrait of Zavalal in uniform, along with the complete shooting decision letter.

Jacinto Zavala Shooting Decision Letter

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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.
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