Protestors participate in the March Against Racism & Police Violence from Aurora to Denver on Aug. 30, 2020. Several hundred protesters marched five miles from Aurora to Denver on East Colfax Avenue in a demonstration against police brutality and in support of Black lives. (Carl Payne for Colorado Newsline)
Colorado continued a years-long trend of higher-than-average rates of police killings in 2022, with at least 39 people killed in confrontations with law enforcement officers between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, according to data from a group that tracks police violence.
People in Colorado were killed by police at a rate of 6.75 per one million residents last year, the seventh-highest figure out of 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to a database maintained by Mapping Police Violence, a nonprofit founded by activist Samuel Sinyangwe.
Thirty-one of the 39 people killed by Colorado police were allegedly armed, the group’s data shows. Only one deadly incident, the June 11 killing of 22-year-old Christian Glass by Clear Creek County sheriff’s deputies, resulted in charges against law-enforcement officers.
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Glass’ car went off the road near the town of Silver Plume shortly before midnight on June 10, and he called 911 for help. He was suffering an apparent mental-health episode and was described to police by a 911 dispatcher as “very paranoid.” Glass disclosed that he had two small knives in his car and offered to throw them out of his window, but refused to exit the vehicle during an hourlong encounter with police, who eventually smashed his car window, tased him and fatally shot him after he allegedly grabbed one of the knives.
A grand jury found that Glass had acted in self-defense and committed no crime. Andrew Buen and Kyle Gould, formerly Clear Creek County sheriff’s deputies, were fired in November after being indicted on homicide charges. Buen, who fired the fatal shots, was charged with second-degree murder, official misconduct and reckless endangerment, while Gould was charged with criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment.
The Denver Police Department also faced criticism for a July 17 incident in which officers in pursuit of a suspect opened fire into a crowd outside a downtown nightclub, injuring six bystanders. Though no one was killed in that incident, a grand jury on Wednesday charged DPD officer Brandon Ramos on multiple counts of third-degree assault and reckless endangerment. Two other officers were not charged.
Other high-profile incidents in Colorado in 2022 included an Oct. 25 shootout in a RTD parking garage in Lone Tree, in which Douglas County sheriff’s deputies fatally shot two suspected car thieves, David Strain and Clarissa Daws, and the Oct. 1 shooting of 30-year-old armed robbery suspect Abel Yohannes by Denver and Aurora police after a 12-mile pursuit that ended near Denver International Airport.
Mapping Police Violence, founded to make up for what it says is a lack of comprehensive data collection on use-of-force incidents in the U.S., has tracked 10,913 police killings since Jan. 1, 2013. The 1,176 killings counted in 2022 represent the highest total in 10 years of data collection, and significant racial disparities persist, with Black people three times more likely to be killed by police than white people, the group says.
The group’s database includes 354 police killings in Colorado over the last decade, a figure that represents the fifth-highest per-capita rate in the country over that period.
Killings by Colorado law enforcement have declined slightly in the last four years since peaking at 48 in 2018. Mirroring national trends, Black, Latino and Native American people are killed by Colorado police at significantly higher rates than whites, according to the group's data.
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