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Denver officer legally justified in fatal shooting of suspect kicked off RTD bus ahead of confrontation, DA says

The suspect was seen in a video confronting an officer with a weapon drawn. Police said he also fired that handgun into the air before he was shot.

DENVER — No criminal charges will be filed against a Denver police officer who shot and killed a suspect following a disturbance on a bus the morning of July 1 in downtown Denver.  

A decision letter from District Attorney Beth McCann says Officer Scott Mattos was acting in self-defense and in the defense of others when he shot and killed Christopher Barela. 

The incident began when Barela boarded a Regional Transportation District (RTD) bus around 6:30 a.m. After some sort of disturbance, police said he was kicked off the bus.

At 7:10 a.m., officers started getting reports of a person who was firing a weapon in the area of East 8th Avenue and Lincoln Street, according to police. 

That suspect was later identified as Barela.

RELATED: Suspect in officer-involved shooting was kicked off RTD bus ahead of confrontation, police say

The decision letter says Barela was first confronted by an RTD officer. 

One video posted to social media by a witness shows Barela and an officer standing a few feet from one another, both with their guns drawn. Barela then turns and walks away from the officer.

An off-duty detective saw that confrontation and reported the incident to 911 dispatchers, the letter says. Mattos was on duty in the area and responded.

Near the intersection of 8th Avenue and Lincoln Street, a police spokesperson said Barela, who was armed with a handgun, fired one round into the air and then started waving his gun around. That is when Mattos fired several shots back, according to police, and struck Barela.

Barela was pronounced dead at the scene, an autopsy showed the cause of death was a gunshot wound. He also tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine. 

McCann said in her letter that because Mattos saw Barela with a handgun, because Barela had repeatedly threatened citizens and officers with the weapon and because Barela did not follow commands to drop the weapon, he was legally justified in shooting. 

"Under these dangerous circumstances, Corporal Mattos was forced to make a split-second judgment, and his decision to shoot Mr. Barela in self-defense and in defense of others was justified under Colorado law," the letter reads.

Mattos was placed on administrative leave during the investigation.

McCann is holding a community meeting on Monday, Jan. from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Carla Madison Recreation Center at 2401 E. Colfax Avenue, to discuss her decision and answer questions.

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