AURORA — Police officers outside an East Montview Boulevard home early Monday morning heard gunshots and then – moments later – saw a man emerge from behind a wall with a pistol in one hand and a flashlight in the other.
“The officer is just outside the front door – he is looking inside,” Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz said Thursday afternoon at a press conference that marked the first extensive explanation of what happened in a chaotic confrontation that left two men dead.
The man the officer saw was Richard “Gary” Black Jr., a Vietnam veteran who had just killed a naked intruder who busted down the front door of his family’s home and attacked his 11-year-old grandson.
After that officer saw Black he yelled, “gun, gun,” Metz said.
Over the next 13 seconds, officers gave “at least” five commands to Black to drop his gun and show his hands, Metz said while recounting what he saw on body camera footage, which he said he would not release at this time.
“We don’t know why,” Metz said, “but for whatever reason Mr. Black did not drop the gun.”
A moment later, Black – who Metz said had hearing impairment as a result of his service in Vietnam – raised his flashlight toward the officers outside his front door. One of them fired four shots, mortally wounding Black.
Metz defended the actions given what the officers knew, saying they did exactly what he expected them to do.
“There was a reference that our officers acted recklessly,” Metz said. “I would dispute that.”
He said it was possible that Black may not have heard the officers’ commands. But he also acknowledged that the officers never identified themselves as police.
“We don’t believe the word police was used,” Metz said. “But they did announce several times drop the gun, drop the gun, show us your hands.”
The particulars of the shooting of Black was one of a number of details Metz made public for the first time at the afternoon press conference:
- The first officers on scene heard gunfire coming from inside Black’s home within 33 seconds of arriving on scene.
- As those officers moved toward the home, they encountered Black’s wife, Jeanette. “You can see on the camera,” Metz said, “the officer passes the wife of Mr. Black, and as he passes, she says, and I quote, he has a gun.”
- The entire incident – from the time officers arrived, through the shooting of Black, to the time they rushed into a bathroom and found the man’s 11-year-old grandson – lasted 2 minutes and 27 seconds.
- An assertion made by Qusair Mohamedbhai, an attorney representing Black’s family, that Jeannette Black had described the gunman and her husband to dispatchers was not accurate. “In all of our reviews of the 911 tape, there was no description given,” Metz said.
- Although he decided not to release officers’ body camera footage or the 911 calls that came from inside Black’s home, Metz said he was supportive of doing that at some point. Several 911 calls from the incident were released later on Thursday evening by the department. Each one can be listened to at the end of this story.
- The officer who shot Black had been returned to duty 18 days after being involved in another deadly shooting, something that was done after a psychological evaluation and a preliminary investigation. Metz said he has asked George Brauchler, the district attorney in the 18th Judicial District, to expedite his review of the case.
Monday’s incident began when a man identified as 26-year-old Dajon Harper of Aurora got out of control at a nearby house party, Metz said. Harper was a known gang member with a lengthy criminal record – he was convicted of aggravated auto theft when he was 14 years old – who was released from a state prison last February, according to court documents.
Harper injured himself vandalizing a nearby car, Metz said, and then ran to Black’s home and began pounding on the front door, eventually knocking it off its hinges. He rushed into the home, followed by others who had been at the same party.
“Imagine yourself in your own home – it’s one thirty in the morning – and not only do you have one person breaking your door down but you’ve got multiple people running in,” Metz said.
It’s possible that Harper was under the influence of something, but toxicology tests have not been completed.
Harper dragged Black’s grandson to a bathroom and locked the door, apparently trying to drown the boy in the tub, Metz said.
That’s when Black and the boy’s father intervened, but after they could not get Harper off the boy, Black grabbed his pistol and shot and killed the man.
Metz said he met privately Thursday with about 10 members of Black’s family, describing it as an “honor and privilege.”
The department, he said at a press conference Thursday afternoon, continues to “remain heartbroken over this incident.”
“He loved his family,” Metz said. “He loved the time he spent with his wife.”
DOCUMENT | Statement from the Black family
Members of Black’s family were allowed to watch the body cam footage and listen to the 911 call, a “difficult” experience, Metz said.
The officer who shot Black, Metz said, has been with Aurora for three years and is a military veteran.
“This officer ran into an incredibly dangerous situation,” Metz said. “He put himself in harm’s way. He ran in when others were running out.”
After the shooting, the officer directed colleagues to give aid to Black and he also provided aid to the child and his father.
Knowing that he’d shot Black was “devastating” to him, Metz said.
“He is incredibly heartbroken over this situation,” Metz said of the officer, who is assigned to Northeast Aurora and who has had no prior internal affairs complaints.
He has not been publicly named, and 9NEWS decided not to identify him after Aurora police officials expressed concern for his safety in the wake of the shooting.
Contact 9NEWS reporter Kevin Vaughan with tips about this or any story: email@example.com or 303-871-1862.
Below are the released 911 calls and radio chatter from the incident released by Aurora Police on their YouTube page:
911 Call #1:
911 Call #2:
911 Call #3:
911 Call #4:
911 Call #5: