The active shooter was wearing black shorts, a floppy hat and tactical gear, and he had already killed an Arvada police officer. He was shooting out windows in police cars in a busy shopping and restaurant district in Olde Town Arvada during lunch hour one year ago.
Three fellow officers in a nearby substation — in shorts and polo shirts — were worried they weren’t wearing the right gear to safely face him. They instead watched the man with an AR-15 from the window as he walked toward the main square of Olde Town, according to investigative documents.
Johnny Hurley, 40, was shopping at an Army surplus store a block over and peered out the window, spotting the shooter. He ran out of the store and removed his concealed gun at his waist, beneath his shirt.
Hurley had trained for active shooter situations — not because it was part of his work, but because he wanted to help people and save lives.
Crouching down, he ran across a vacant, shady plaza with umbrellas and tables, gripping his gun as it pointed toward the ground. Hurley knelt down behind a brick wall and carefully watched the shooter. Hurley took aim and fired six rounds from his handgun, five struck the gunman, according to his lawyers.
The entire scene was captured on surveillance camera footage.
“I have to admit it’s kind of exciting to see the way he handled himself,” said his mother, Kathleen Boleyn. “The way he took all the training and practice that he’s had and did the right thing.”
Hurley continued to try to do the right thing — he moved to disarm the gunman, who was still alive and lying on the ground with his AR-15 nearby, according to Boleyn’s attorneys.
Officers saw Hurley from the safety of the substation.
They stayed inside because they worried even the door itself wouldn’t stop a round from an AR-15, according to investigative documents.
Even though Hurley didn’t look anything like the suspect description, they told investigators in an interview later that they couldn’t tell if he was a possibly a second shooter. They had no idea one of their own, Officer Gordon Beesley, had been killed just two minutes earlier.
“That’s the information that Arvada did not want the public to know,” said Siddhartha Rathod, the attorney representing Hurley’s family. “The officers hid while Johnny did what they were trained to do, that the officers refused to go outside. These are three officers with bulletproof vests on, and they refused to open the door and go and engage the shooter.”
For 11 seconds, the officers watched Hurley from behind as he was trying to remove ammunition from the automatic rifle, according to court filings. Without announcing “police” or asking him to drop the weapon, Arvada Officer Kraig Brownlow opened the substation door and took aim at Hurley from behind, hitting him in his back pelvis and killing him.
“If they would’ve simply said, ‘Police,’ Johnny would be here today,” Rathod said.
In an interview in Rathod’s office earlier this month, Hurley’s mother looked at the floor.
“Absolutely,” she said. “That was very much a part of his training. Any announcement, any suggestion to put down your weapon, if they would have said, ‘Police, put down your weapon,’ … he would have dropped it.”
This week is the one-year anniversary of the incident, and Hurley’s family filed a civil rights lawsuit against Brownlow and the Arvada Police Chief Link Strate alleging their actions and the police department’s own policies deprived Hurley of his constitutionally protected rights.
Arvada Mayor Marc Williams said June 21, 2021, was the hardest day of his life as mayor.
“We still mourn the loss of Officer Gordon Beesley and are so thankful for the service of the Arvada Police Department,” he said. “And at the same time we still think about Johnny Hurley. It’s tragic because of the actions of a crazed gunman, we lost two very good men that day.”
Read the article in its entirety at cpr.org