DENVER — The family of a 22-year-old man who was shot and killed by a Clear Creek County sheriff’s deputy in June has hired an attorney and is pressing for more information about why the young man was shot.
Further, the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s office continues to review the shooting along with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and is also in touch with federal law enforcement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, and the FBI about the case.
“This office is required to issue a report or to present the case to a Grand Jury to further investigation or decide if indictments should issue,” 5th Judicial District Attorney Heidi McCollum said in a statement. “I will release my decision on the action this office will take as soon as the review process and a complete and thorough investigation is completed.”
Family, attorneys question narrative originally provided by sheriff’s office
Christian Glass, 22, was shot and killed on Main Street in Silver Plume sometime a little after midnight on June 11. Dispatch had received a call at 11:21 p.m. on June 10 regarding a “motorist assist,” as the sheriff’s office said back in June.
But the narrative about what happened that came from the sheriff’s office is in question after the body camera video of the shooting was obtained from prosecutors, attorneys with Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC and Glass’s parents said at a news conference on Tuesday morning in which they called for more attention on the case and discipline for the deputy and others involved in the shooting. They said the initial narrative contained either lies or omissions.
“He trusted the police to come help him. Instead, they attacked and killed him,” Glass’s father, Simon Glass, said Tuesday. “The killer shot Christian five times just to make sure.”
The sheriff’s office said on June 11 that Glass, who was not identified at the time, had become “argumentative and uncooperative.” Undersheriff Bruce Snelling said in a news release the man was armed with a knife.
Snelling said in June deputies broke out the car window and took a knife from the man before he grabbed another knife and a rock. Snelling said deputies used less-lethal options, including bean bag rounds and a Taser, but they had “negative results.”
“The suspect eventually tried to stab an officer and was shot. The suspect was pronounced deceased on scene,” Snelling said in the June 11 news release.
But Glass’s family has hired the law firm Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC in the case, saying they have questions about why deputies shot and killed the young man. The law firm released body camera video of Glass’s shooting, and the 911 call that led to the response by deputies, Tuesday morning.
The attorneys and families discussed the shooting at a news conference at 11 a.m. in Denver.
Body camera video shows many new details about what led to shooting
According to the attorneys, Glass had been on his way back from a trip to Moab, Utah, when he called 911 late on June 10 after he got his vehicle stuck on an embankment in Silver Plume.
He told the dispatcher he was scared and that he had two small knives, a hammer and rubber mallet in his vehicle with him, which he said he would throw out of the window once deputies arrived. The attorneys said the items were related to his work as an amateur geologist and that he had bought them on the tail end of his trip to Utah.
Body camera video provided by the attorneys shows two Clear Creek County deputies arriving and Glass telling them he can’t get out of his car. He asked to throw his items out of his window but the deputies told him not to. Glass puts his keys on the dashboard, according to the video, after which point a deputy ordered him out of his vehicle. Glass tells the deputies he is scared.
Video provided by the attorneys shows one of the deputies telling Glass he will break the window out of the vehicle about three minutes after they arrived at scene. Glass is seen asking them not to break out the window.
At one point, the deputies draw their handguns when they see a knife in Glass’s lap, which Glass threw to the other side of the vehicle. Glass tells the deputies that the only way he feels safe is inside of the vehicle. The deputy at one point tells dispatch there was a “possible psych issue going on.”
About 17 minutes after the first deputies got to the scene, other deputies and officers arrive, and others continue to arrive, according to the video. At one point, according to the video, a Colorado State Patrol trooper said there was no point in contacting Glass because he had not committed a crime. In all, according to the attorneys, law enforcement officers from seven agencies responded, but none called in the crisis response teams from Jefferson or Boulder counties.
About 52 minutes after the first deputies arrive, the law enforcement officers on scene start trying to get into the vehicle, according to the video. The breach was made around 68 minutes after the first deputies arrived.
Video shows deputies have guns pointed at him and are saying that Glass has a knife in his hand. The video shows bean bags being fired and a Taser being used on him while he screams and deputies continue to tell him to drop the knife.
As he screamed, “Lord hear me,” a deputy fires shots at him through the front-passenger side of the windshield, according to the video.
About a minute later, they pull Glass out of the car, and he is seen bleeding and mostly unresponsive. The attorneys claim the Clear Creek County deputy who arrived after the shooting to investigate it “strategically mutes his body-worn camera during critical parts of the investigation,” which the video provided by the attorneys appears to confirm when the deputy says, “Muting for a private conversation.”
Video shows Glass lying dead underneath a sheet in the video. Tampering with a body camera video intentionally in Colorado is a violation of state statute and can result in an officer having their POST certification permanently revoked after the implementation of Senate Bill 217.
Glass died at the scene of the shooting. Snelling, the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office undersheriff, said in June the Colorado Bureau of Investigation was investigating the shooting. It is not clear precisely where that investigation stands currently, but the attorneys said the deputy involved in the shooting is back on patrol. Snelling confirmed Tuesday the deputy was back at work.
“A gentle soul with a big heart”
Glass was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, to his parents Sally Glass, originally from New Zealand, and Simon Glass, originally from the United Kingdom. They lived in England before moving to the U.S. for Simon’s work, Sally Glass said. They originally lived in California, where Christian struggled to assimilate to American sports, she said.
He went to a boarding school in New Zealand for a year but was bullied in the boarding house, she said, so they brought him back to the U.S. and the family moved to Colorado. Glass went to middle school in Colorado and attended Monarch High School, his mother said.
He went to culinary school but started getting increasingly interested in art, which he had been working to spend more time on. He also had plans to attend a coding boot camp in the coming months while he was living with a roommate in Boulder County.
He was his parents’ only son and had two sisters, Glass’s parents said. They described him as a deep thinker, avid reader, and a “gentle soul with a big heart.” He had at times struggled with depression, his mother said, and was prescribed Ritalin after a diagnosis for ADHD.
Glass’s parents said he likely never in his life had encountered the sort of aggressive nature some of the deputies displayed toward him that night and was scared. They said he was the type of person who was always worried about doing the right thing and not upsetting others.
“He was paralyzed by fear and [the officers] had no empathy,” Sally Glass said. “There’s a hole in my heart that will be there to the day I die. But what keeps me upright and what keeps me putting one foot in front of the other is to seek justice and to really get that asshole behind bars.”
“We could spend hours talking and discussing everything they did wrong”
Attorneys Siddhartha H. Rathod and Qusair Mohamedbhai said they believe the deputy who shot Glass five times was back on duty in Clear Creek County within 4-6 days of the shooting despite the investigation – which Mohamedbhai said was a “very short” period.
They also said they believe the officer who muted his body camera was the watch commander for the sheriff’s office. They called his behavior suspect, postulating that the only reason he would have muted his body camera while talking with officers who were not wearing cameras would be to “cover up misconduct.”
Mohamedbhai said the office was waiting for the full autopsy report before filling a potential lawsuit and that they would be discussing next steps with McCollum and the district attorney’s office. U.S. Attorney for Colorado Cole Finegan has also talked with the attorneys, he said.
“I don’t think I need an autopsy to tell me this is wrong and a violation of his constitutional rights,” Mohamedbhai said.
Glass’s autopsy report, signed on Aug. 16, found Glass was shot five times in the torso. His cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds and manner of death was homicide, according to Forensic Pathologist Meredith A. Frank, M.D.
The toxicology report, compiled by a lab in Pennsylvania, found trace amounts (0.01 BAC) of alcohol in his system, forms of THC that indicated he had used marijuana, which he told deputies during the interaction, and amounts of amphetamine consistent with a Ritalin prescription.
Rathod said he had ran the toxicology number by an expert who said the alcohol levels were very, very low, marijuana numbers showed he had past use in his system, and the amphetamine was consistent with levels for Ritalin or Adderall.
“It’s absolutely horrible. The video is hard to watch because you compare Christian’s kindness in the video to the officers’ initial aggression, and then you look at it from a police tactics point of view,” Rathod said of the incident. “We have shown this to several police tactics experts. Every single one says it’s a failure from start to finish. This is one of the most disturbing videos we have ever seen.”
Rathod said he believes the deputies may have created their own perceived danger in the case.
“If you’re so scared of a knife that you have to draw your gun, police tactics experts will tell you, ‘Distance, cover, time,’” he said. “If you have to draw a gun, you don’t stand right next to what you perceive as a threat. Distance, cover, and time. It’s basic policing.”
“I’ve been doing this almost 20 years and have seen some of the worst things come through this state. I’ve never seen this level of poor policing,” Mohamedbhai said. “The decision-making here, we could spend hours talking and discussing everything they did wrong and everything they could have done.”
The two contended at the news conference that a kindergarten teacher could have gotten Christian Glass out of the car.
“That type of conduct is not policing. It’s just bullying,” Rathod said.
The attorneys and Glass’s parents said they want more attention on the case from both the public and law enforcement agencies around the country that could learn from what they called the mistakes in the shooting.
“If you commit a crime, it doesn’t matter who you are – if a member of the public or a member of the police force – we all have to be held accountable,” Sally Glass said. “If a member of the public shot Christian five times, he’d be in jail.”
The Glasses said they even initially believed the narrative from the sheriff’s office because they believe that when officers shoot people, the people must have been doing something wrong. But they are angry they were potentially deceived, they said, after the attorneys relayed to them what they saw on the body camera video – though they themselves say they will not watch the videos.
“No other industrialized nation comes even close to the amount of police killings that happen in this country,” Sally Glass said. “There seem to be too many bad apples in police, and they need to be weeded out. They carry guns and a license to kill with impunity, and in large parts, no accountability.”
“…The police need to know if they act criminally, they will face charges and punishment just like the rest of us,” she added.
Simon Glass said the sheriff’s office was not taking the shooting seriously: “Our son’s life is extinguished and no one is accountable?” he asked.
“The people involved in this crime must be held accountable – for our family and the peace of mind of hundreds of thousands of other parents in Colorado, I respectfully request justice for our son, Christian Glass,” Simon Glass added.
DA says investigation into shooting will not be rushed
Susan Medina, a spokesperson for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, said Tuesday morning before the 5th Judicial District released its statement that the investigation remains active and that she was checking to see where investigators were in the process. McCollum said the investigation would not be rushed.
“While we understand that public sentiment may desire this process to move at a more rapid pace, it is not in the interests of justice and fairness to the family of the victim for this matter to be rushed to a conclusion,” McCollum said in a statement.
Snelling, the Clear Creek County undersheriff, said in a statement Tuesday morning the sheriff’s office was unable to comment on the case because of the ongoing investigation.
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