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Body camera video shows fatal police shooting during middle school pickup

Richard Ward's family filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office.

PUEBLO WEST, Colo. — A family filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office after deputies shot and killed a man in a middle school pickup line last year.

Richard Ward, 32, was shot three times in the chest during an encounter with deputies on Feb. 22, 2022. The Tenth Judicial District Attorney’s Office cleared both deputies involved in the call in October, arguing the deputy who fired was justified in his use of force.

“It’s just shattered this whole family,” Kristy Ward Stamp, Ward's mother, said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon as her attorneys filed the civil lawsuit against Pueblo County.

“It’s been really, really horrible. I don’t even know who I am anymore, but I’m working on it," she said. "That’s about it.”

Ward's younger brother, Eddy Stamp. who lives out of state, was at the news conference to support his mother.

“It’s infuriating," he said. "It’s so hard to watch the footage and see what happened with your own eyes.”

The family is upset both with what the video shows and the way the story was portrayed by the sheriff's office after the shooting. 

Dave Lucero, who was a chief deputy at the time and is now the Pueblo County Sheriff, briefed reporters at the scene that day. Lucero told reporters that day that Ward "jumped out of the vehicle." The video shows Ward being pulled out of the car by a deputy.

"To hear my younger brother say that other people's parents are reading that story and that other kids in his class are referring to my brother as this intruder and attacker, and to have him not know how to even deal with that," Eddy Stamp said.

Ward was sitting in the car with his mother and her boyfriend waiting for his younger brother to get out of Liberty Point International School in Pueblo West. According to family attorney Darold Killmer, Ward got out of the car to stretch his legs and smoke a cigarette. When he returned, Killmer said he accidentally got into another SUV that looked like his mother’s. Killmer said he quickly got out of that car and walked back to his mother’s car.

“At worst, he had startled a lady by opening her car door, though it was accidental, and nothing further happened when he realized his mistake,” Killmer said. “The officers had no basis to believe Richard had committed any crime, and absolutely no basis to believe that Richard was a danger to them or anyone else.”

According to a decision letter from the district attorney, a 911 caller reported a suspicious person trying to open doors. The caller claimed Ward was “on something.”

When Deputy Charles McWhorter arrived on scene, he approached Ward in the SUV and had a brief conversation with him. In body camera footage, Ward tells the deputy he’s nervous because he doesn’t like cops. He tells the officer he has some anxiety and has had bad experiences with police yelling at him to stop resisting when he’d done nothing wrong.

McWhorter asks if Ward has an ID, and when Ward reaches into his pockets, McWhorter asks if Ward has any weapons. Ward tells McWhorter he may have a pocketknife.

Body camera from a second deputy, Cassandra Gonzalez, who arrived after McWhorter, shows Ward slipping something in his mouth. Killmer said Ward had an anxiety disorder and had been prescribed medication for it. The deputy demanded to know what Ward put in his mouth. Ward answered it was just a pill.

McWhorter pulled Ward out of the SUV and onto the ground, and the two struggled for several seconds. McWhorter pulled out his service weapon and fired three shots at Ward.

After the shooting, Ward’s mother and her boyfriend are heard screaming from inside the SUV, asking for information from the deputies. 

The deputies closed the car door and stood with Ward’s body for nearly three minutes until medical assistance arrived.

> Watch the full body camera footage below. Editor's note: This video shows the moment a man dies and may be disturbing to some viewers. It also contains strong language.


“Rather than providing emergency medical care to Richard, such as applying pressure to the wound area or other potentially life-saving measures, both McWhorter and Gonzalez did absolutely nothing,” the attorney Killmer said. “Rather, they satisfied themselves to wait until an ambulance later arrived, by which time Richard had died.”

An October decision letter from the DA’s critical incident team said they found McWhorter and Gonzalez were justified to use force by the defense of self and defense of others provisions of Colorado law.

“They had reasonable ground to believe, and did believe, that they and their fellow officers were in imminent danger of being killed or receiving great bodily injury,” district attorney Jeff Chostner wrote.

In the same letter, the district attorney said that McWhorter and Gonzalez feared for their own safety with Ward’s mother and boyfriend still in the car and decided not to render aid to him before firefighters got there.

“[McWhorter] said he would have felt vulnerable if he was down on the ground assisting Richard as the door would only offer concealment not cover,” he wrote.

Ward’s family’s lawsuit alleges claims under the U.S. Constitution and under the Colorado Constitution pursuant to Colorado’s new police reform law.

“We consider this an extraordinarily compelling case of unjustified police brutality, leading to the death of a young man with devastating consequences for his mother and family,” Killmer said. “The family has asked us to secure justice for Richard, and we intend to do so.”

For tips about this or any story, e-mail 9NEWS Reporter Steve Staeger at steve@9news.com.

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