Colorado Springs City Council chambers overflowed with De’Von Bailey supporters Tuesday demanding an independent investigation into the Aug. 3 fatal police shooting of the 19-year-old black man.
Twenty-four residents, including Bailey’s family, church leaders, concerned parents and a student representative from Colorado College, stressed the need for an impartial third party to investigate the shooting and their concerns about future policing policies in the city. As they stood at the podium in front of the room, many turned toward Mayor John Suthers, who sat in the front row.
Several held signs calling for 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May to recuse himself in the investigation. Another read: “Too many conflicts of interest.”
“We are one of the latest communities in our nation dealing with a police-involved killing of a young black teen," testified Deb Walker, executive director of the Citizens Project, "and our collective fear is that black men are not getting justice and our laws and policies are inadequate to address this reality.”
She echoed the need for transparency in the investigation and called for a thorough review of the city code, city charter and policies relevant to policing.
Suthers, who did not comment during the meeting, later told The Gazette that he empathizes with those affected by the shooting.
The shooting, the city’s fifth fatal police shooting this year, has sparked controversy in the community and nationwide, with some claiming police misconduct. Body camera footage shows two officers shot at a fleeing Bailey after he ignored orders to raise his hands. Police approached Bailey and his cousin after they received reports about an armed robbery and were told that Bailey had a gun.
“I know there are very different perspectives on the incident itself and feelings of grief, anger and questioning that come from these different perspectives. As we await a legal resolution of this case, I urge our community to embrace a spirit of healing,” Suthers said in a statement.
As mayor, he said, he does not have the authority to take the case from May, an elected official whose office is investigating the case. Per Senate Bill 15-219, the Deadly Force Investigations Team of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office also investigates police officer-involved shootings.
“I also have no reason to urge it, as there is no legal or ethical conflict of interest that I am aware of. I would point out that the FBI and DOJ have jurisdiction to review the matter, and it’s my understanding that they are doing so,” he said.
After the community discussion, Councilman Bill Murray said he will ask for an independent probe into the shooting.
“I promise you, I will reengage. I will ask for a citizen review committee and an independent investigation,” Murray said, adding that the mayor denied his request for a review board four years ago.
Many people at the meeting expressed a lack of trust between police and residents of southeast Colorado Springs, particularly in a community southeast of Memorial Park known as K-Land for a closed Kmart in the area where Bailey was killed.
“If something happens in the community, at least you should consult with the people who understand the pulse and the heartbeats in those communities,” said the Rev. Promise Lee. “Now dozens of people in that particular community, as I speak today, are traumatized.
“They have not received any counseling, any condolences from city leaders. They don’t know what to do. We are here today to speak on their behalf.”
The Rev. Heather Haginduff advocated for a citizen oversight board to make policy-level recommendations on use of force, police training and community concerns. She cited similar models created in Denver, Fort Collins and Ferguson, Mo.
“The outcome of citizen review boards typically includes increased transparency, improved accountability, improved public trust, legitimacy of investigations and greater community engagement,” said Haginduff, pastor of First Congregational Church.
“There are issues obviously of race that need to be addressed,” said Councilman David Geislinger.
Stephany Rose Spaulding decried the lack of internal files for Sgt. Alan Van’t Land, one of the two officers in Bailey’s shooting. After an attorney for Lawrence Stoker, Bailey’s cousin, pressed for access to the reports last week in court, a city attorney said none exist.
“I question as we think about budgets; I question as we think about the citizens of Colorado Springs who continue to then trust our taxes to you: How is it possible that you have individuals on the force that are consistently involved in excessive force cases that have no files?” asked Spaulding, one of the Democratic candidates hoping to challenge U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.
Van’t Land was involved in the fatal shooting of a man in 2012 and accused of using excessive force in 2011. The DA’s office did not press charges in the shooting, and the city settled the excessive force lawsuit for $50,000.
Spaulding also denounced the 20 bullet wounds found on Joshua Vigil’s body after he was killed by police less than two weeks before Bailey was slain.