On Aug. 7, 2019, Colorado Springs police officers responded to a call of an armed robbery. The caller alleged he had just been jumped by two men who pointed a gun at him, physically assaulted him, and took his wallet. The victim knew one of the suspect’s nicknames and the other’s first name.
A Colorado Sergeant searching the area encountered two subjects matching the description, and he along with other officers detained them. During the encounter, the sergeant told the subjects he was investigating a robbery in which a gun was used and told the suspects not to reach for their waists.
As an officer was getting ready to search De’Von Baily, one of suspects, Baily took off running. An officer involved shooting (OIS) occurred and the 19-year-old suspect was shot four times. According to the coroner, three of those shots were to the suspect’s back.
The OIS has resulted in outrage from some members of the community. In media reports, the family attorney characterized the shooting as an “execution.”
Two weeks after the shooting, Colorado Springs Police released body cam footage, the recorded call from the victim, and radio traffic.
The body cam footage shows a very low-key, cordial and respectful interaction between the police and the suspects. The officer goes so far as to state, “So we got a report of two people, similar descriptions possibly having a gun. Alright? So don’t reach for your waists. We’re going to check and make sure you don’t have a weapon. Alright?”
There is no detectable malice from any of the officers. As an officer walks up to search, the suspect takes off running. As he runs, the body cam footage shows him reach for his waistband. The officer or officers fire their weapons. The suspect immediately goes down.
While body camera footage is a useful tool and of significant evidentiary value, it does have its limitations. This case is a prime example of that. The officers fired for a reason, not just because there was someone running from them but because there was a perceived threat.
The body cam footage does not capture in the same detail what the human eye sees — in this case, what the suspect was doing when he reached for his waist. My guess is he was reaching for the gun that was later found in his shorts. All sides agree that Baily had a gun in his pants.
Whether he reached to pull it out, to further conceal it or to just keep it from falling out of his pants as he ran, is something known only to him. The officer or officers shot in reaction to something they saw.
Upset community members point to the fact the suspect never pointed the gun at the officers and he was simply trying to get away. This in no way addresses the fact the suspect was a threat. He had allegedly already been involved in a robbery where a victim was threatened with a handgun. It is quite possible the officers saw something the viewer can’t on the body cam footage.
Have we reached a point where officers have to wait for a weapon to be pointed at them in order to protect themselves? More than one officer has been shot during a foot pursuit by a fleeing suspect.
From what I can find during internet searches, neither officer can be described as trigger happy given their names are not associated with any previous officer involved shootings. They were far from heavy handed or malicious during their encounter with the suspects. Might I say they were even polite?
The shooting was investigated by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department, which has turned it over to the prosecutor’s office for review. Prosecutors ultimately will determine if the shooting was criminal.
According to Colorado statue 18-1-707, a police officer is justified in using deadly force when:
(2) A peace officer is justified in using deadly physical force upon another person for a purpose specified in subsection (1) of this section only when he reasonably believes that it is necessary:
(a) To defend himself or a third person from what he reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of deadly physical force; or
(b) To effect an arrest, or to prevent the escape from custody, of a person whom he reasonably believes:
(I) Has committed or attempted to commit a felony involving the use or threatened use of a deadly weapon; or
(II) Is attempting to escape by the use of a deadly weapon; or
(III) Otherwise indicates, except through a motor vehicle violation, that he is likely to endanger human life or to inflict serious bodily injury to another unless apprehended without delay.
It would seem that at least several of those thresholds might have been met.
This is indeed a tragedy for the suspect’s family, the officers, and lest we forget, the original victim in this case. A young man has lost his life, and it’s easy to understand the family’s pain. There was a bad decision made in this case and it probably wasn’t the officers who made it, but a scared young man who had chosen to arm himself and victimize others.