Third Aurora Officer-Involved Shooting in May: Who's to Blame?

We've been reporting about the disturbingly high number of officer-involved shootings in Colorado in recent months.

Between Halloween and mid-December 2015, for instance, eleven officer-involved shootings took place along the Front Range — and the pace of such incidents has remained troubling in 2016.

Recall that late last month, we told you about two officer-involved shootings in two nights — one in Westminster, the other in Lakewood.

This phenomenon is particularly prevalent in Aurora, the scene of three officer-involved shootings in May, including one last night that's left a suspect in a life-threatening situation.

In each case, the Aurora Police Department account of what went down suggests that officers acted properly, although all of the incidents remain under investigation. Let's run through them in chronological order.

At about 7:30 a.m. on May 1, according to the APD, officers were dispatched to a McDonald's restaurant at 14251 East Colfax Avenue on a report of an armed party.

The man was said to have been loitering in the lobby of the eatery, and when employees asked him to move along, he displayed a handgun.

Upon their arrival, the cops found the suspect in the restroom, and during their efforts to extricate him, he was shot in the wrist — a non-life-threatening injury that was treated at an area hospital.

The following week, during a news conference for the second APD officer-involved shooting of the month (ti's on view below), Aurora police chief Nick Metz revealed that the still-unidentified man at the McDonald's was homeless and the gun he possessed was a realistic-looking replica.

The second Aurora police shooting of May took place at around 11:56 p.m. on May 10, and it, too, involved a fast-food restaurant — in this case a Wendy's at 15400 East Colfax.

That's where Aurora officers say a suspect carjacked a vehicle at gunpoint and took off with a female companion.

After the cops tried and failed to execute a traffic stop, the APD account notes that "a pursuit was authorized" — and during it, the suspect, later identified as Stephen Schuster, is said to have "intentionally" rammed an Aurora police patrol car.

Schuster spun out on the 7700 block of South Quatar Court, at which point Aurora police officers opened fire and he was killed.

The woman with Schuster hasn't been ID'd, even though she was taken into custody on an active warrant.

During the aforementioned press conference, Chief Metz cited her references to Schuster's words during the chase — specifically his apparent statements about killing cops and not wanting to go back to prison.

He reportedly had a gun in his hand at the time he was shot — an example, in Metz's view, of the challenges too many officers are facing these days.

“We are seeing increased violence out in our communities," the chief said at the press conference. "Our officers have been facing a lot of physical aggression."

Aurora Officer-involved shooting number three? The APD reveals that it happened during at traffic stop just after 11 p.m. last night, May 15, on East Evans Avenue near South Blackhawk Street.

At around that time, cops pulled over a Saturn sedan with four people inside "for a traffic violation."

When they did so, a passenger fled the vehicle on foot. An APD officer took off after him and reported seeing the man produce a gun — and indeed, a gat was recovered at the scene.

The officer reacted by shooting the man, who, at last report, was in an area hospital with life-threatening injuries. He had not yet been identified.

All of the officers in these cases have been placed on administrative leave pending the completion of the separate investigations — standard procedure in such instances.

If the pace of these shootings keeps up, the Aurora police may face a manpower shortage.

Look below to see three separate reports about the incidents: 9News' take on the May 1 shooting, CBS4's coverage of the May 10 Schuster gun-down, and Fox31's piece about what happened last night. These clips are followed by the Aurora Police Department press conference prompted by the second shooting.

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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