Just after 2 p.m. on Monday, October 21, three Denver police officers shot and killed a man who they say was pointing an assault rifle in their direction. Now the Denver Police Department is offering more details on the events that precipitated this fatal police shooting, which seem more out of Grand Theft Auto than real life.
Police became aware of a possible crime yesterday at 1:53 p.m., when a person called 911 to report that a man had attempted to steal his car. The 911 caller said that he had been using the self-service vacuum at the Car Wash Express at 603 Santa Fe Drive and was held up at knife-point by a man who demanded that he hand over his keys. The person who was apparently held up at knife-point ran away, escaping without injury. The man who attempted the carjacking was unable to steal the car because he couldn't find the keys.
Police in the area then began searching for the carjacking suspect and located a man matching the description within minutes on the 600 block of Kalamath Street.
Officers began issuing verbal commands, but the suspect was non-responsive. One officer then used a taser, which didn't "appear to have been effective," according to police lieutenant Matt Clark, who spoke during a press conference today, October 22.
At 1:58 p.m., according to Clark, the carjacking suspect then got into the car of one of the police officers who had attempted to stop him and started driving away. He was in the stolen police car for a total of six minutes.
The suspect drove south on Kalamath Street and west on Sixth Avenue, then north onto Federal, where he ran into traffic and turned back onto Eighth Avenue heading east. During the pursuit, officers who were chasing the suspect attempted to use the front of their vehicles to hit the rear of the stolen police car to get it to spin out, but were unsuccessful. Meanwhile, officers saw the suspect holding an assault rifle in the police vehicle and intermittently pointing the barrel back toward them, Clark noted. The individual had not entered the police car with an assault rifle in his possession, so it was clear to officers that he was holding a police assault rifle that he found in the car.
Officers were finally able to stop the stolen car at Zuni Street and Eighth Avenue, under the I-25 overpass. Police approached the suspect and saw him holding the weapon, which he then pointed at them, the officers reported. Three police then fired their pistols at the suspect, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
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One of the officers who fired shots at the suspect was involved in another officer-involved shooting earlier this year. The three have been placed on "modified duty," meaning they won't be working for the time being.
The police have not yet released the name of the suspect, pending notification of next of kin. The Aurora Police Department, the Denver District Attorney's Office and the Office of the Independent Monitor are handling the investigation of the officer-involved shooting, which is the tenth involving Denver police officers this year. There were only seven such incidents in all of 2018.
Once the investigation into the use of lethal force is complete, the department will launch its own internal review to see if any rules were violated. Although Clark didn't elaborate on the circumstances that led the suspect to get his hands on a police assault rifle, he did note that police rifles and shotguns are typically kept in the trunk of a police car or locked on a gun rack inside the car.
The assault rifle was found to be unloaded. According to Clark, it's typically kept that way but can be loaded using nearby ammo, which is the reason he said police couldn't know for sure whether it was loaded or not.