DENVER — Two experts in policing said the officers who fired their guns on a crowded LoDo street will likely be cleared of criminal charges, but they disagreed on whether the officers should have fired their weapons.
After reviewing police body camera footage at the request of 9NEWS, both analysts said the fact the man the officers were trying to stop had a gun will impact the charging decision.
The shooting happened in the early morning hours of July 17 in the area of 20th and Larimer streets. Denver Police said Jordan Waddy and six bystanders sustained injuries after officers fired seven rounds trying to stop Waddy. Waddy's attorney said his client had tossed his gun to the side and put his hands up in the moments before officers fired.
"You don’t have to be an officer to appreciate and understand how quickly the decision had to be made by those officers to shoot the subject," said Ed Obayashi, a California sheriff's deputy and use of force expert. "There is no time to deliberate. There’s no time to consider every aspect of the shooting of a firearm."
University of Colorado professor of criminal law Aya Gruber agrees the shooting happened fast -- and she said the officers will likely not face criminal charges. She also said the officers should've acted with more restraint.
"The minute that a gun is seen, it's like a free-for-all of shooting," she said. "I just wonder whether that all was worth it to catch some people in a fistfight."
She said the body camera shows people clearly in the line of officers' fire.
"It’s just so dense that that amount of shots by that many officers in that population is really unsettling," she said.
She said statistics show officers are not likely to be shot in a confrontation, even when a suspect is armed.
"It's very rare," she said.
But Obayashi said officers were right to fire, even if people in the crowd got hurt.
"Officers will try to shoot, let's put it this way, as best they can aiming-wise," he said.
"I’m not going to fault [the officer] for that despite the fact that some of his rounds may have hit innocent bystanders," he said. "There was no intent for this officer to shoot innocent bystanders, but unfortunately, these accidents happen."
District Attorney Beth McCann has asked a grand jury to decide whether the officers should face criminal charges. It marks the first time she has asked for a grand jury review in a shooting involving officers.
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