DENVER (AP) — Two Colorado sheriff’s deputies needlessly escalated a fatal standoff with a 22-year-old man experiencing a “mental health crisis,” leading him to brandish a knife in “a state of complete panic and self defense,” indictments released Monday showed.
The death last June of Christian Glass drew national attention and prompted calls for police reforms focused on crisis intervention. Glass was shot after calling 911 for help getting his car unstuck in the hamlet of Silver Plume, an hour west of Denver.
Clear Creek County Sheriff Deputy Andrew Buen, who shot Glass, was verbally aggressive toward the “paranoid” young man and muted his body worn camera when speaking to the shift supervisor, deputy Kyle Gould, just before the situation was escalated, according to the indictment.
Buen was indicted on charges of second-degree murder, official misconduct, and reckless endangerment. The indictment was announced last week, months after Glass' death, but the details were only made public with Monday's release.
Gould, who was not at the scene, was indicted on charges of reckless endangerment and criminally negligent homicide
The death has become a flashpoint for demands for police reforms focused both on crisis intervention and de-escalation training to address 911 calls police may not be fully equipped to handle.
Carrie L. Slinkard, an attorney representing Buen, did not immediately return a request for comment. No telephone listing or attorney could be found for Gould.
Nichole Lentz, spokesperson for the Clear Creek County Sheriff, said in a statement that both officers were terminated following the indictments.
The sheriff office’s ongoing internal investigation found “policy and procedural failures,” Lentz said, adding that the office’s initial news release following the shooting “does not reflect the entirety of what happened on that terrible night.”
Glass, who called police late on June 10 to help get his Honda Pilot unstuck, appeared to be “paranoid” and having a “mental health crisis," according to the indictment. Once law enforcement arrived, body camera videos show Glass refusing to get out of his car while telling police he is “terrified” and making heart shapes with his hands to officers.
Officers tried to speak with Glass, establish a rapport and persuade him to leave the car, but Buen oscillated between aggressive language and a conversational tone with the young man, according to the indictment.
Eventually, Buen spoke with Gould, the shift supervisor, over the phone but muted his body camera during the conversation, according to the indictment. After the call, Buen told another officer at the scene that the decision to forcefully remove Glass from the vehicle had been made, the indictment claims.
The decision to breach the car came without a determination that there was probable cause or a reasonable suspicion by officers on the scene that a crime had been, or was being, committed, according to the indictment.
Once the window was shattered, Glass seemed to panic, and police then shot Glass with bean bag rounds and shocked him with a stun gun, causing the young man to “scream in agony and panic,” according to the indictment.
Glass then brandished a knife in “a state of complete panic and self defense," according to the indictment. It added that Glass had previously offered to throw two knives out of the window though the video shows officers told him not to.
The footage then shows Glass twisting in his seat and thrusting a knife toward an officer who approaches the rear driver window before Buen fired his gun five times into Glass, according to the documents.
The grand jury alleged that at no point was the officer in imminent danger of being stabbed and Glass never attempted to get out of his vehicle.
“But for the decision by Gould to remove Mr. Glass from the vehicle there is no reason to believe that Mr. Glass would have been a danger to any law enforcement personnel, to himself, or to any member of the public,” the grand jury wrote, “And the decision to remove him from the vehicle directly lead to the death of Mr. Glass.”
Jesse Bedayn, The Associated Press