RIFLE, Colo. — A suspect with a gun, running from police is shot in the back.
This could be a headline from the August 3 shooting death of De'Von Bailey in Colorado Springs, but this story is about what happened two days later in the city of Rifle, just west of Glenwood Springs.
On that day, a warrant was issued for the arrest of 57-year-old Allan George in a suspected child pornography case.
Cell phone video recorded on a bridge overpass shows George's interaction with police and ultimately, his death.
"There was a woman driving across the bridge, and she stopped and she saw what was going on. She took out her cell phone and she started recording it," said attorney David Lane.
Lane, whose law firm Killmer, Lane & Newman represent Bailey's family, now represents George's family.
"A man with a gun in his pocket was trying to get away from the police when they were shot in the back by the police," Lane said about both cases. "Neither De'Von Bailey nor Allan George had pulled a gun and put any law enforcement officer in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury or death."
The video from Rifle shows George on a bridge overpass, on the opposite side of the guardrail, pointing a gun at himself. An officer is positioned behind his squad car's open driver's door holding George at gunpoint and shouting to "put the gun down."
About one minute into the video, it appears to show George put the gun in a front pocket and then gesture as though he's going to jump off the overpass.
At about three-and-a-half minutes into the video, George comes back over the guardrail and starts to walk, then jog away from the officers. The cell phone video tilts down toward the ground and then you hear a gunshot. The cell phone video tilts back up and shows George start to go down as another gunshot is heard.
"You don't have to show people every brick in the wall to prove that it's a brick wall," said Lane.
The autopsy report confirmed that George was shot twice in the back.
The cause of death on the autopsy report was listed as "gunshot wounds of chest."
Garfield County Coroner Robert Glassmire contracts its autopsies out to forensic pathologist, Dr. Dean Havlik, from The Pathology Group, P.C. in Grand Junction.
9NEWS asked Glassmire and Havlik why the cause of death is listed as "gunshot wounds of the chest" if George was shot in the back.
"By convention, the cause is assigned to what internal organs the injury involved and resulted in the death. So, if the gunshot wound resulted in injury into lungs and/or heart we say 'gunshot wound of chest' regardless of where the entrance and exit wounds are. For example, the entrance could be in the right shoulder and exit the left aspect of the abdomen in a downward path resulting in perforation of the lungs and heart and with a case like this we would call it 'gunshot wound of chest' and not 'gunshot wound of right shoulder.' Similarly, if the gunshot wound entered in the back and involved injury to the liver and exited the abdomen we would say 'gunshot wound of abdomen,'" said Havlik.
Lane would like the FBI to take over the investigation, just as his law firm and the family of Bailey have asked for an independent investigation in Colorado Springs.
"When the police investigate the police it always works out very well for the police," said Lane. "Do you think even for one minute that if two civilians were on this video that there would be any hesitation in arresting someone for first degree murder?"
The officer who fired his weapon is on administrative leave. Another officer at the scene has been put on reduced duty. They do not wear body-worn cameras.
There are three aspects that investigators look at to determine if shootings like these are justified or if a crime was committed.
- Did they commit a serious felony?
- Are they trying to escape arrest?
- Do they constitute an immediate threat to the officers or the public?
"Under the circumstance, would you let an individual who was wanted for a felony, who they know is armed, to escape into the public and pose a potential threat to the public?" said Deputy Ed Obayashi, a sheriff's deputy with the Plumas County Sheriff's Office in California, and a law enforcement trainer on use of force. "The officers are going to have to articulate that based on the circumstance, that this individual, even though he wasn't apparently threatening anyone at the time, that by escaping, he would constitute an immediate threat to the safety of the public."
The shooting is being investigated by the Garfield County Critical Incident Task Force.
In the Bailey shooting, Gov. Jared Polis called for an independent investigation. When asked about the Rifle shooting, his spokesman provided the following statement:
"In the De'Von Bailey case, the question is: how can community confidence in the outcome of the investigation be maximized. The Governor believes that the best way to ensure confidence in law enforcement and dispel community doubts is to make sure it's done by an independent authority. The Governor looks at each incident on a case by case basis and is generally supportive of independent investigations. It's critical to ensure that when a recommendation is reached that there is maximum public confidence in the outcome and that the public does not lose faith in law enforcement."
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