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DA says officer justified in fatal shooting of man armed with knife

Multiple witnesses reported that the man advanced quickly and agressively toward officers prior to being shot on May 19.

DENVER — A Denver police officer who fatally shot a man armed with a knife in May will not be charged, according to Denver District Attorney Beth McCann.

Raul Rosas-Zarsosa, 52, was shot on May 19 in the area on Federal Boulevard near Harvard Avenue. He was taken to the hospital where he lied died. The coroner ruled that he died from multiple gunshot wounds.

RELATED: Denver Police: Suspect armed with knife shot less than 1 minute after officers arrived

Officers were called to the scene on a report of a stabbing but the ensuing investigation revealed that Rosas-Zarsosa had been injuring himself by cutting his own throat.

>The video above aired the night of the shooting.

McCann outlined her decision not to file charges in a letter. In it, there were accounts from multiple witnesses who reported that Rosas-Zarsosa moved quickly toward officers as soon as they arrived.

One person said he "rushed" the officers and "chased them around," the letter says. Another person reported that Rosas-Zarsosa was "going after them [the cops] very aggressively" and that he was "nerve-rackingly close" and that she thought to herself "he's going to harm someone," the letter says.

Credit: DPD
A screenshot from an officer's body camera that shows a knife in the suspect's hand.

Witnesses also recalled seeing the officers use less-lethal force being fired from a gun, according to the letter.

Good quality video from a Ring camera nearby corroborated those statements, the letter says. In the video, the officers can be heard issuing commands, such as "get back" before 10 shots consistent with pepper ball deployment are heard. They had little to no effect, the letter says, and at the point in the video Officer Katie Phillips' voice becomes more alarmed as she yells "stop" and "don't do it."

Read the full decision letter here

Shortly after, five gunshots are heard and Phillips then yells "shots fired."

In an interview the next day, Philips said she believed she had hit him with a pepper ball because he reacted a "tiny bit to it", but went on to say, "he didn't stop. I don't think he paused in his side, he kept coming."

She said in the interview that he was "so close" and that "he was within the distance that if I didn't shoot him, he was going to be on us," according to the letter.

RELATED: DPD: Suspect with knife shot by officer near South Federal Boulevard

Body camera footage shows the officers approaching Rosas-Zarsosa who had fallen to the ground. They yell at him to drop the knife, and the video shows him tossing a knife from his right hand onto the ground, the letter says.

“Raul Rosas-Zarsosa was advancing toward these officers armed with a knife and got within approximately 12 feet of them before he was shot," McCann said in her letter. "I conclude that not only was this shooting legally justified, Officer Phillips and her fellow officer demonstrated DPD training to use less lethal means to stop the threat before using deadly force.”

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