An Aurora police officer was “justifiably in fear of his life” when he opened fire on a gunman in a darkened hotel parking lot in late June, killing him, an Arapahoe County prosecutor wrote in clearing the patrolman of wrongdoing.
“Any officer in that position would reasonably be in fear of his life and the lives of other officers, and would reasonably believe that firing his service weapon was necessary to defend himself and his fellow officers,” Rich Orman, senior chief deputy district attorney in the 18th Judicial District, wrote.
Joey Bronson, 39, died in the incident at the Biltmore Hotel, 8900 E. Colfax Ave.
Drew Limbaugh is the same officer who shot and killed Richard Black on July 30, 9Wants to Know has previously reported. Black, a 73-year-old decorated Vietnam veteran, was killed just after he’d shot and killed a naked intruder who had broken into his home and attacked his grandson.
The investigation into whether Limbaugh was legally justified in that shooting is ongoing.
According to Aurora police officer Bill Hummel, a department spokesman, Limbaugh has returned to work but is in a “non-enforcement role,” meaning he’s assigned to a desk, not on the streets.
The earlier incident began unfolding early the morning of June 27 when Bronson pulled a handgun from his waistband and fired two rounds, apparently into the air, Orman wrote in the decision letter. Responding officers were given a description of the man and began searching the area.
After they encountered Bronson, he ran away, according to the letter, with a gun in his hand.
Limbaugh and another officer chased Bronson, issuing “forceful” orders to “drop the gun,” according to the letter.
But Bronson didn’t drop it, running into a secluded corner of the courtyard, according to Orman’s letter, pointing his gun in Limbaugh’s direction and attempting to fire it. It apparently jammed, but Limbaugh opened fire while Bronson was pointing the gun at him. Limbaugh fired 13 shots, 11 of which hit Bronson.
Even after he was hit, Bronson continued to hold the gun for a time, Orman wrote.
Body camera footage recorded both officers yelling “drop the gun” after Bronson was hit.
“It’s dropped,” Bronson said at one point.
In examining whether Limbaugh was legally justified in shooting Bronson, Orman noted that officers can open fire if they “reasonably believe” they or someone else is in serious danger.
“The fact that Joey Bronson continued to point the gun in officer Limbaugh’s direction even after he had been shot, and even as he was going to the ground, and while on the ground, constituted grounds for officer Limbaugh to believe that it was necessary to keep shooting until the threat was mitigated,” Orman wrote.
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