O∞cer “legally justified” in death Prosecutors announce finding on Denver cop who shot wanted, suicidal, knife-wielding man in Aug.
A Denver police officer was “legally justified” when he shot and killed a wanted and suicidal, knife-wielding man during an August confrontation in the cramped quarters of a home in the Baker neighborhood, prosecutors announced Tuesday.
Terry Lee Salazar, 49, died in the Aug. 27 encounter near the intersection of Fox Street and West Ellsworth Avenue. He was wanted on four arrest warrants in 2016 cases, two of which were for felony drug offenses, another for a domestic violence assault case and a fourth for failing to appear in court for a traffic offense allegation, the Denver district attorney’s office says.
Investigators say Salazar asked two officers on scene that day to shoot and kill him, saying, “I’m not going to prison” and “Just kill me, shoot me,” as he approached them with the knife. Officer Antony Gutierrez-McKain shot Salazar five times, according to prosecutors.
“The evidence shows that Officer Gutierrez-McKain was clearly acting in selfdefense,” Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey wrote in a letter announcing his decision that the shooting was justified. “No witness or evidence contradicts or disputes this. Therefore, criminal charges are not legally or ethically appropriate and will not be filed.”
The ordeal began when investigators say Salazar stabbed one of his roommates in the chest and cut his arm with a large knife. A woman also living at the house called 911 asking for police help and telling a dispatcher that Salazar was wanted.
Officers Gutierrez-McKain and Sean Kelly were dispatched to the house. Shortly after they arrived, the letter says Salazar briefly came outside, but when he saw police he ran up the stairs to the second level of the home and went into a small bedroom with a woman.
Gutierrez-McKain had his handgun out and Kelly was holding his Taser. When they heard the woman scream, the officers entered the room and saw Salazar with a large black knife in his hand, which prompted an elongated standoff as he waved the blade, Morrissey’s letter says.
“Salazar raised (the knife) and began swinging it at the officers,” the letter says. “Gutierrez-McKain pointed his handgun at Salazar and shouted commands to put the knife down.”
At one point, Officer Kelly fired his Taser at Salazar, which briefly stopped him before he pulled out the device’s probes and “(continued) his aggression, still wielding the knife,” authorities say.
Eventually, the confrontation spilled out of the bedroom and into a hallway as Salazar began yelling about trying to retrieve a gun. The letter says Salazar advanced toward Gutierrez-McKain with the knife as the officer shouted, “Put the knife down. I don’t want to shoot you.”
Gutierrez-McKain, who was backed up to a wall, then opened fire, killing Salazar, according to the report. The officer estimated Salazar was just two arm’slengths away at the time.
In addition to the suicidal comments he made during the encounter, the letter says Salazar had also told his sister the night before the shooting: “This time they’re not taking me alive. They will have to kill me.”
Morrissey’s letter says an autopsy revealed there was amphetamine and methamphetamine in Salazar’s blood.