A screen capture from body-camera footage showing the fatal police shooting of Lucas Antonio Salas on August 18, 2021. See the video below.17th Judicial District DA's office via YouTube
This week, 17th Judicial District DA Brian Mason issued a decision letter in the fatal shooting of Lucas Antonio Salas, who died while fleeing from officers with the Northglenn and Thornton police departments last summer.
Mason deemed the shooting legally justified, and to support this contention, his office released video of Northglenn officers Joshua Moreau and Charles Festi, as well as Thornton officer Mikal Timm, chasing down Salas, a suspect in the tragic slaying of 21-year-old Alamosa resident Cheyenne Goins, on a public golf course in broad daylight.
An excerpt from the letter reads: "Mr. Salas ignored [officers'] commands and continued to run through the golf course heading towards golfers and nearby homes."
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation had announced a search for Goins on August 20, 2021, more than a week after she'd been reported missing. The timeline was confirmed in an August 13 post placed on her Facebook page by her sister, who wrote, "She's been missing for 5 days now.... Please pray for her."
The CBI blast noted: "Based on the preliminary information by the [Alamosa County] Sheriff's Office and the CBI, both agencies are concerned that foul play might be involved. It's believed that several people were in contact with Goins the night she went missing, including the suspect in the officer-involved shooting in Northglenn. ... While the suspect in the Northglenn incident was most definitely a person of interest in Goins' disappearance, there were no formal charges at the time of the incident."
On August 24, the CBI offered an update revealing that Goins's remains had been found three days earlier "in a clandestine grave in a remote area in Alamosa County at Colorado State Highways 160 and 150." The CBI identified Salas and noted that he "was considered a person of interest in Goins' disappearance, as he was one of several people to be last seen with the missing Alamosa woman."
Colorado Bureau of Investigation/Family photo via KRDO
The decision letter fills in the gaps. On August 17, a CBI agent contacted a detective with the Northglenn PD, since investigators theorized that Salas was staying in town at the residence of his stepmother, who lived in an apartment complex on the 300 block of East Malley Drive.
Bureau staffers had also connected Salas with a 2003 blue Nissan Sentra, and on August 18, a Northglenn detective observed him climbing into the vehicle along with three other people and driving away — at which point he requested an assist from patrol officers to which Moreau responded. But Salas drove the Sentra off-road to evade an attempt to block his escape route, kicking off a chase involving Moreau that got even more dangerous. In the area of 120th Avenue and Washington Street, "Mr. Salas fired a gun at Officer Moreau's patrol car," according to the letter.
Shortly thereafter, Salas drove his car into a ditch at the Thorncreek Golf Course, located near the intersection of 136th Avenue and Washington, before disembarking and taking off on foot; the other three passengers stayed in the car.
According to Moreau, Salas was holding a handgun as he dashed into a wooded area alongside the golf course. Moreau identified himself as a police officer and shouted commands to stop, as did Festi and Timm, who'd joined the chase, but Salas kept going onto the course.
The wide-open terrain allowed the three cops to catch up to Salas, with Moreau and Timm approaching him from the right and Festi bringing up the rear. Moreau drew a Taser, but when he got within eight feet, Salas reportedly fired multiple shots in his direction. "Officer Moreau described feeling the wind of the bullet on his arm and being terrified," the account continues.
At that point, Moreau dropped the Taser and grabbed his firearm, but he didn't shoot it — because Salas had already fallen to the ground.
Timm told investigators that Salas took a shot at him, too, prompting him to squeeze off three shots at the suspect. Festi fired four shots of his own.
An autopsy subsequently determined that Salas had been struck six times. A drug screen also scored positives for amphetamines and fentanyl.
This combination of factors led DA Mason to conclude that the officers did what needed to be done under the circumstances, since Salas's "conduct undoubtedly posed an immediate threat to the officers, causing them to respond with the use of deadly force" — which essentially concluded the probe into who killed Cheyenne Goins.
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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.