Body Cameras: Police Shootings Leave Families With Unanswered Questions

By Mark Ackerman and Brian Maass

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Two police shootings in two days in Larimer County left two young men dead.

On June 30, a Larimer County deputy shot and killed Chet Knuppel, 23, in the middle of a field.

The next day, July 1, Jeremy Holmes, 19, was shot and killed near the Colorado State University Campus.

img 4845 Body Cameras: Police Shootings Leave Families With Unanswered Questions

(credit: CBS)

In both cases, the young men were in crisis and a parent called for police help. Although police officers in one of the cases were wearing body cameras, parents in both cases have unanswered questions.

Sue Holmes said her son Jeremy was in crisis when she called 911.

“I regret that phone call to this day,” said Holmes, who called police after her son started acting erratically and threatened to kill relatives.

sue holmes Body Cameras: Police Shootings Leave Families With Unanswered Questions

Sue Holmes (credit: CBS)

“Jeremy was mentally ill,” she said. “Officers said that was very important.”

A Colorado State University police officer spotted Holmes armed with a knife near campus. According to District Attorney Cliff Riedel, the officer backpedaled and ordered Holmes to drop the knife 36 times, while Holmes demanded the officer shoot and kill him.

jeremy holmes Body Cameras: Police Shootings Leave Families With Unanswered Questions

(credit: CBS)

“Jeremy did not want to hurt the CSU officer,” she said. “He was asking him to kill him. He’s saying, ‘I need help.’”

Then a Fort Collins police officer arrived on scene, saw a fellow officer in trouble and opened fire. Holmes was shot six times total, with both police officers firing shots.

img 4838 Body Cameras: Police Shootings Leave Families With Unanswered Questions

CSU Police (credit: CBS)

The shooting was captured on both of the officers’ body cameras and Riedel watched them. He said the videos showed Holmes charged the CSU police officer, right before the shots were fired. He cleared both officers of any wrongdoing in his decision letter in July but, months later, Sue Holmes still hasn’t been allowed to see the video.

LINK: Holmes Shooting Decision Letter

“This is like an open wound,” Holmes said. “I need to know what happened to my son.”

The Fort Collins Police Department said it is waiting for a citizen review board to weigh in before releasing the video.

fort collins police generic badge Body Cameras: Police Shootings Leave Families With Unanswered Questions

(credit: CBS)

The Knuppel family in Larimer County wishes there was body camera footage of their son’s death last June.

Chet Knuppel was drunk, stole his father’s car and crashed it. He then threatened to carjack a couple who stopped to help. Knuppel later ran into a field and was shot by a deputy.

chet knuppel Body Cameras: Police Shootings Leave Families With Unanswered Questions

Chet Knuppel (credit: Facebook)

Chet Knuppel was unarmed.

The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office does not use body cameras so there is no video evidence of what happened. A snippet of audio from the deputy’s open microphone was released. You can hear the deputy ordering Knuppel to “show us your hands” before he was shot. But, without video, it is impossible to know what the deputies saw.

sheriff justin smith Body Cameras: Police Shootings Leave Families With Unanswered Questions

Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith (credit: CBS)

“What they saw they perceived as a weapon,” explained Sheriff Justin Smith. “We had a lot of reasons to believe that individual was armed and he wanted people to believe he was armed and told several people he was willing to kill.”

Riedel ruled the Knuppel shooting justified, and will not pursue criminal charges against the deputy who shot him.

LINK: Knuppel Shooting Decision Letter

“That’s one of those cases that we didn’t hear a big public uproar because we’ve done a lot to create trust in the public,” Smith said.

Smith said he’s shied away from body cameras because they are costly, they take a lot of manpower to process videos and he’d rather budget for more deputies on the street.

CBS4 INVESTIGATES: See All Of CBS4’s Body Cameras Reports

“It’s not to say that body cams don’t have value,” Smith said. “But, there are companies that are making tens of millions of dollars off these technologies, and if they are driving decision-makers, we should ask why.”

Additional Resources

Currently, 22 of Colorado’s 63 sheriff’s offices have body cameras. Four more sheriffs plan to deploy body cameras by the end of 2017.

54 out of 109 Colorado police departments invested in body-worn cameras

Mark Ackerman is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. Follow him on Twitter @ackermanmark

CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass has been with the station more than 30 years uncovering waste, fraud and corruption. Follow him on Twitter @Briancbs4.

Comments

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More From CBS Denver

Weather App
Future Leaders
Together 4 Colorado

Watch & Listen LIVE