FIVE DAYS. SIX DEADLY EN­COUN­TERS.

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Tom McGhee

Six people died in five days dur­ing the past week in of­fi­cer-in­volved shoot­ings across Colorado. The un­con­nected shoot­ings are rare in a state that averages three po­lice shoot­ings a month that of­ten aren’t fa­tal. The num­ber of shoot­ings is high, but it’s hard for law en­force­ment ex­perts to draw any con­clu­sions or see any pat­terns in the string of fa­tal of­fi­cer-in­volved shoot­ings that started June 30. »

Six people died in five days dur­ing the past week in po­lice of­fi­cer-in­volved shoot­ings across Colorado. The un­con­nected shoot­ings are rare in a state that averages three po­lice shoot­ings a month that of­ten aren’t fa­tal.

The num­ber of shoot­ings is high, but it’s hard for law en­force­ment ex­perts to draw any con­clu­sions or see any pat­terns in the string of fa­tal of­fi­cer-in­volved shoot­ings that started June 30.

Two in­volved stolen ve­hi­cles. Four in­volved chases. In five of the in­ci­dents, early re­ports in­di­cate the people who died were armed or had threat­ened po­lice.

State law re­quires a shoot­ing by a peace of­fi­cer that re­sults in in­jury or death to be in­ves­ti­gated by multi-agency teams that in­clude mem­bers of at least one other po­lice depart­ment, sher­iff’s of­fice or the Colorado Bu­reau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion. Be­cause all the re­cent in­ci­dents are un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, few de­tails have been re­leased.

“At the end of the day, it is hard to say this is a trend,” said Mike Vi­o­lette, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Colorado State Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice.

Alam­osa County Sher­iff Duane Oakes, pres­i­dent of the Colorado As­so­ci­a­tion of Chiefs of Po­lice, said po­lice of­fi­cers are trained to re­spond when con­fronted by armed or dan­ger­ous sus­pects.

“When people bran­dish firearms at po­lice, we are there to pro­tect the com­mu­ni­ties and to pro­tect people,” he said.

While the in­ci­dents must be eval­u­ated in­di­vid­u­ally, the clus­ter of shoot­ings sug­gests that more needs to be done to as­sure force is used only as a last re­sort by law en­force­ment of­fi­cers, said Nathan Woodliff-Stan­ley, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the ACLU of Colorado.

Ev­ery com­mu­nity in the state should have in­de­pen­dent mech­a­nisms for po­lice ac­count­abil­ity, strict use-of-force poli­cies and ef­fec­tive train­ing in de-es­ca­la­tion tech­niques, he said. “We also need more ro­bust col­lec­tion of data on of­fi­cer-in­volved shoot­ings to bet­ter in­form the con­ver­sa­tion about com­mu­nity-po­lice re­la­tions.”

The spate of shoot­ings frus­trates at least one state leg­is­la­tor who won­ders what else can be done to re­duce the num­ber of fa­tal en­coun­ters be­tween po­lice and sus­pects.

Colorado has al­ready passed laws to ban choke holds and has in­creased re­stric­tions, over­sight and train­ing of law en­force­ment of­fi­cers in the wake of lo­cal and na­tional al­le­ga­tions of po­lice abuse.

Both Den­ver and Aurora po­lice are pro­hib­ited from shoot­ing at

mov­ing cars un­less some­one in­side is fir­ing at them, poli­cies that mir­ror those adopted by many po­lice de­part­ments na­tion­wide.

An in­creas­ing num­ber of po­lice de­part­ments across the state now re­quire of­fi­cers to wear body cam­eras to hold them ac­count­able for their ac­tions when they in­ter­act with cit­i­zens. On Fri­day, the day that three of the fa­tal po­lice shoot­ings oc­curred, Den­ver po­lice an­nounced plans to ex­pand body cam­era use to of­fi­cers moon­light­ing at bars, sports events and other off­duty jobs.

“This is what law en­force­ment deals with ev­ery day,” said Demo­cratic state Sen. Rhonda Fields, who is a mem­ber of the Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee. “I don’t be­lieve any­one goes to work to have this kind of en­counter, I be­lieve they come up against life-or­death de­ci­sions,” and must make a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion in a split se­cond, she said.

Still, she finds the high num­ber of fa­tal­i­ties alarm­ing.

“That causes me to pause to get a sense of what is go­ing on,” she said. “What can po­lice do to have a more peace­ful out­come so that the end of a con­flict we don’t find an­other dead per­son?” The fa­tal shoot­ings

• June 30: Po­lice shot and killed Stephanie Lopez, 32, and crit­i­cally in­jured a se­cond woman after a car­jack­ing and high-speed chase. Lopez was pro­nounced dead at the scene and the other woman was hos­pi­tal­ized in crit­i­cal con­di­tion. Early re­ports in­di­cated the women fired shots at po­lice of­fi­cers, but Den­ver po­lice later said they couldn’t con­firm that.

• June 30: A Larimer County deputy shot Chet Knup­pel in the ch­est as he was flee­ing after crash­ing a stolen ve­hi­cle in a field near Colorado 392 and Larimer County Road 9. Knup­pel died later at a hos­pi­tal.

• June 30: West­min­ster po­lice shot and killed Brett Ro­driguez when he ran as they tried to ar­rest him. Of­fi­cers were look­ing for a sus­pect wanted on war­rants when they saw the man who was also wanted on war­rants. Po­lice said he ran to a car and dis­played a weapon when of­fi­cers ap­proached.

• July 1: Jeremy Holmes, 19, died from mul­ti­ple gun­shot wounds after he was shot by po­lice near Colorado State Univer­sity when CSU and Fort Collins po­lice of­fi­cers re­sponded to a re­port of a “threat­en­ing male” who was armed.

• July 4: A Fed­eral Heights po­lice of­fi­cer shot and killed a fugi­tive parolee, who of­fi­cers be­lieved was armed, when he re­fused or­ders to sur­ren­der and tried to flee. Po­lice said the man had driven to an apart­ment com­plex after threat­en­ing a woman.

• July 4: Mon­tezuma County deputies who were dis­patched to han­dle a do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in­ci­dent shot and killed a 53-year-old man. A deputy shot Ty­rone Pe­abody after he came out of a home armed with a ri­fle and fired to­ward deputies.

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