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Citing gag order, Englewood mayor won't answer questions about police shooting

Mayor Othoniel Sierra said a gag order prevents him from commenting on the case. A First Amendment attorney says that's not true.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — It’s been more than a week since a man died as Englewood police officers were shooting into a house on July 24.

Police said a man inside the house shot at them, but the department won't say who shot and killed the other person in the home. The man accused of firing the shots, 29-year-old Phillip Blankenship, was arrested. His brother, 22-year-old Matthew Mitchell, was killed.

The city's mayor, Othoniel Sierra, still will not talk about the case. He's citing a gag order, but a First Amendment attorney said it doesn't apply to the mayor.

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Sierra agreed to an interview with 9NEWS reporter Kelly Reinke about the shooting before a city council meeting on Monday. He answered almost every single question in a similar way. 

The city manager told Sierra before the interview that Englewood's city attorney said the gag order does apply to the mayor. 

First Amendment attorney Steve Zansberg disagrees. He said this order only applies to the attorneys of record in the case and members of "criminal enforcement," including sheriff's deputies and police officers, working under the district attorney on the prosecution.

The advice from Englewood's city attorney is allowing the mayor to avoid answering questions about the shooting involving his police officers. 

> Watch Sierra's full interview with 9NEWS reporter Kelly Reinke: 

"At this time, I wish I could answer any questions that you happen to have, but unfortunately a judge on the case has issued a gag order and so I am limited in the amount of information I am able to provide at this time," Sierra said in the 9NEWS interview. 

"Do you know the gag order does not apply to you or your opinions?" 9NEWS asked. 

"Again, right now we want to stick to the facts," Sierra said. "With the gag order currently in place I would like to limit information until that whole investigation has concluded."

"Gag orders only apply to officers of the court, including police officers and attorneys, but it does not prevent you as the mayor of Englewood from providing an opinion about what may have happened or the questions you have about the incident," 9NEWS said.

"Right," Sierra said. 

"Can you give your community any sense of how you feel as an elected official about what happened that day?" 9NEWS asked.

"Obviously, the events of July 23rd are very unfortunate, so my heart does go out to the family of the deceased, the neighbors, as well as the police officers that were involved in the incident," Sierra said. 

The shooting involving Englewood police officers happened on July 24, not July 23. 

"Do you have any questions about how that all played out?" 9NEWS asked.

"Again at this time with the gag order currently in place I am limited in the amount of information I am able to provide," Sierra said.

He said he plans to provide an opinion on this case once the gag order is lifted and the investigation has concluded.


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