As police continue to investigate the case of a man who tracked down his stolen vehicle and got into a fatal shootout with armed occupants, it is likely any criminal or civil case will not have much success, according to a legal expert.
9NEWS obtained police body-camera footage that shows the frustrated car owner telling officers multiple times he will confront thieves himself if police don’t act fast enough.
The footage was recorded Feb. 5 at the Northfield shopping center about 30 minutes before the car owner traced his stolen car with GPS and fatally shot 12-year-old Elias Armstrong, who was among the armed occupants of the vehicle.
“I'll do it myself, if I have to, if that's what you guys really want,” the 35-year-old man tells an officer on the video.
Police asked the car owner to file a report, which further frustrated the man, who wanted officers to immediately recover his vehicle. A responding officer told the man that police usually wait for stolen vehicles to stop to avoid problems like high-speed chases and crashes that can injure bystanders.
After telling police at least eight times his plans to confront the car thieves he was tracking, the owner got into a shootout with the armed occupants of his stolen car about 10 miles away, at West 10th Avenue and Decatur Street.
Armstrong, who was sitting in the driver seat of the stolen car, was fatally shot in the chest. Police said other armed occupants ran from the car and have not been located.
The car owner claimed he was shot at first when he approached his stolen car.
“This would be a very difficult case for prosecutors to proceed with, unless there was a witness that will say that the owner of the vehicle opened fire first. And that witness has not appeared on the scene, at least not as yet,” Robinson said.
Robinson said he considers the car owner the initial aggressor in the case and that the law does not protect people when they use lethal force to protect property, but because the owner claimed he was shot at first, he has a viable self-defense claim.
“What this case comes down to is who fired first, and if there's no witness, other than the owner of the vehicle, that pretty much settles the case,” said 9NEWS legal analyst Scott Robinson.
The Denver District Attorney's Office has said it will not prosecute the car owner because a conviction is not likely.
As for a lawsuit, Robinson said a civil case could be filed but that it's likely a jury would not be sympathetic to the fact that Armstrong was in a stolen vehicle.
“He was clearly involved in the theft of a vehicle with companions who were armed," Robinson said. "That's not going to go very far with most juries."
If you have any information about this case or would like to send a news tip, you can contact jeremy@9NEWS.com.
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