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Officers who fired 14 rounds at man holding gun were justified, DA rules

Colton Wagner, 31, died in the shooting after reportedly firing multiple gunshots at people in MLK Park in June 2021.

DENVER — Three Denver Police Department (DPD) officers who fired 14 rounds that killed a man who reportedly shot at people in Martin Luther King Jr. Park in June 2021 were ruled justified on Thursday by the Denver District Attorney's Office.

DPD said officers responded the evening of June 4, 2021, to six 911 calls about a man associated with a grey Jeep firing a gun at MLK Park. The man was later identified as 31-year-old Colton Wagner.

At least eight people were in the immediate area, and it appeared that Wagner was specifically firing toward at least three people, according to police. There was no indication he knew those people, and no one was hit by gunfire.

Officers arrived at the scene within a few minutes and were directed by a witness to the east side of the park, where they found a grey Jeep in the 3800 block of Olive Street in Denver's Park Hill neighborhood.

> The video above is a DPD update on the shooting on June 8, 2021. 

Wagner was outside the Jeep, leaning into the front-passenger area, and was not completely visible to officers, who stopped their vehicles about 90 feet away.

Officers ordered Wagner to show his hands, but he ignored them and continued leaning into the car for about 45 more seconds before stepping back, according to DPD.

When Wagner came into the full view of the officers, they immediately saw he was holding a handgun and ordered him for about 30 seconds to drop the gun, DPD said.

During that time, Wagner raised the gun to his own head, briefly lowered it and then began walking toward the officers with the gun pointed at them, according to DPD.

That was when three officers fired their guns at Wagner, who died after he was taken to the hospital. No other injuries were reported.

The three officers fired a total of 14 rounds. Two officers used handguns and one used a rifle.

There was no indication that Wagner fired at officers, but investigators recovered a .45 caliber handgun and found 24 .45 caliber casings in the area and around Wagner's car, according to DPD. Additional live ammunition was found inside and around the Jeep.

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“This incident understandably terrified many people who were at and around the park that day,” said Denver District Attorney Beth McCann. “After reviewing all of the evidence, this was a very clear example of how officers followed their training and stopping a bad situation from becoming worse. I conclude that these officers’ actions were legally justified.”

The full decision letter from the district attorney's office can be found on their website.

There is a virtual community meeting planned with McCann from 5 to 6 p.m. July 26 to discuss the incident and her conclusions.

Janet Oravetz contributed to the reporting in this story. 

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