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Suspect in officer-involved shooting was kicked off RTD bus ahead of confrontation, police say

The incident began when police received reports about a man firing rounds from a gun near 8th Avenue and Lincoln Street around 7 a.m. Monday.

DENVER — A man is dead following an officer-involved shooting that stemmed from a disturbance on a bus the morning of July 1 in downtown Denver.  

The incident began at about 7:10 a.m. when officers started getting reports of a person who was firing a weapon in the area of East 8th Avenue and Lincoln Street. Officers later learned that the disturbance started on a Regional Transportation District (RTD) bus nearby.

That suspect was later identified as Christopher Barela, 22.

Barela, at some point, damaged the windshield of the bus, and was asked to get off of it, Division Chief of Investigations Joe Montoya said during a news conference Tuesday. 

Near the intersection of 8th Avenue and Lincoln Street, Montoya said Barela, who was armed with a weapon, fired one round into the air and then started waving his gun around. An officer at the scene fired several shots back, according to Montoya, and struck Barela. Officers arrived on scene at 7:13 a.m., and the confrontation was over by 7:15 a.m., police said. 

"Officers responded very quickly and they engaged this armed suspect and resolved this situation," Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said in a briefing. "This entire situation was resolved in less than five minutes; that's pretty fast."

Barela was pronounced dead at the scene, an autopsy showed the cause of death was a gunshot wound. Pazen said they don't believe anyone else was involved in the incident.

A construction worker who works in the area said he saw a man waving a gun around not long before he heard several gunshots.

"He had a gun and he swung it out and we had to duck behind this wall right here," Baltazar Torez said.

The man continued down the block and then Torez said he heard several gunshots.

"It was like pop, pop, pop," he said. "And then we ducked again. It paused for a little bit and then it went pop, pop again. And it was over."

One video posted to social media by a witness shows Barela and an officer standing a few feet from one another, both with their guns drawn. Barela then turns and walks away from the officer.

Lincoln Street was closed between East 7th Avenue and East 10th Avenue as a result of the investigation, according to Denver police. Lincoln Street reopened at 4:40 p.m.

The officer who fired shots has been placed on administrative leave during the investigation. 

Police asked anyone with video or photos of the incident to email to them to dpdpio@denvergov.org. They said they believe a lot of people may have witnessed the event since it occurred during the morning rush-hour.

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