DENVER (CBS4) – The district attorney’s office has declined to file charges against the Denver police officer who shot and killed William DeBose. Police say DeBose pointed a loaded weapon at them. Denver District Attorney Beth McCann released the body worn camera video Thursday.
“Stay right there, for me, both of your hands up in the air,” a police officer is heard yelling on the video.
The police body camera video appears to show William DeBose take off following what appeared to be a traffic stop. The police officer runs after him. A version released shows a circle around what is believed to be DeBose taking a gun out, then pointing at the officer chasing him who yells, “Put your hands on the ground now! Now!”
Initially, family members claimed DeBose was shot in the back while running away. The autopsy found he was killed by a bullet to his chest. He was also struck in the leg.
DeBose was shot on May 1 in the 3200 block of West Colfax Avenue in Denver.
His common-law wife, Sierra Martinez, said DeBose was scared when the police pulled them over for speeding on Interstate 70.
“William started to run,” Martinez told CBS4. “Two officers ran after him, one pointed his gun and said ‘Don’t move,’ and ran after him and started shooting.”
District Attorney McCann concluded that the shooting was legally justified and that no criminal charges are warranted against the officer involved.
In an interview she told CBS4, “That situation where an officer is confronted with the potential of death, under that kind of situation the law does allow police officers to use deadly force.”
There were four gunshots according the District Attorney’s letter to the Denver Chief of Police. The autopsy indicated one struck DeBose in the chest another in his leg.
At the state Capitol on Thursday afternoon, supporters of William DeBose gathered to protest the decision. Among them the wife and father of the young man who died.
Walter DeBose said, “I definitely believe he deserves justice he was running for his life.”
McCann called the decision difficult in part because she is a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I had hoped to extend my deepest sympathy to the family of Mr. William Lamont Debose for the loss of their beloved son and husband and communicate my decision to them privately before announcing publicly,” said McCann. “However, they have declined that meeting.”
The family’s attorney, Birk Baumgartner, told CBS4 that they do not want to be part of “an illegitimate process.”
McCann said that, based on the Colorado law related to when peace officers are legally justified in using deadly physical force, no criminal charges are warranted against the officer.
“The horrific killing of George Floyd at the hands of police officers has spurred increased calls for justice and close examination of law enforcement and systemic racism in our criminal justice system. I support these efforts and will hold police officers accountable for any criminal actions as I have done in the past and am doing currently (we have a pending case against a Lakewood police officer,)” McCann continued.
“I have and will continue to support Black Lives Matter and I recognize the immediate need to examine police practices as well as prosecution and judicial practices,” McCann stated. “However, in this case, [the officer] had a reasonable belief that he was defending himself from the imminent use of deadly physical force and Colorado law allows peace officers to use deadly physical force under these circumstances.”
DA McCann will hold a community meeting to discuss her conclusions. Due to the current health pandemic, that meeting will be held over Microsoft Teams on Wednesday, June 24, 2020, from 5:30 – 7 p.m. The public is invited to join that meeting by clicking here: https://bit.ly/3fBeQZc.
There may be no criminal charges, but the family is looking at the possibility of a lawsuit against the police department.