As two massacres consumed national media attention over the weekend, Colorado Springs police reportedly shot and killed 19-year-old black suspect De’Von Bailey as he fled white officers responding to a robbery report. The shooting led local protesters to storm police headquarters.
No one has all the facts. We all know, for whatever reason, the outcome is tragic. Friends and relatives of Bailey, and the greater community, suffer the irretrievable loss of human life.
Additionally, two officers — men who risk their lives daily for this community — find themselves suspended (per routine policy) and accused of misconduct by people with little information. The tragedy hurts our entire city.
While acknowledging the magnitude of loss, the public should respond to this rationally, within the judicial process, and only as we learn facts and nuances that led to this outcome.
Surveillance video obtained by The Gazette shows Bailey running from cops, with their weapons drawn, as he falls to the ground. The video tells us part of the story but not nearly enough. As explained by Los Angeles Police Department veteran Adam Bercovici in a Gazette news story, the law allows police to shoot a fleeing suspect if they believe the person poses a significant threat of death or severe physical injury to an officer or others.
Bailey was reportedly armed and also the suspect in a sex crime by a person in a position of trust involving a minor. Bailey was shot near a park. Police claim the suspect reached for his gun during the lethal encounter, but we do not know where or when.
An assortment of other factors will determine whether officers used appropriate force or broke the law. Civilians should not, to bolster personal conclusions and organized sociopolitical agendas, oversimplify the complicated circumstances surrounding this case.
In the interest of public accountability and transparency, law enforcement investigating this incident should release available video surveillance — most importantly body camera footage from officers at the scene — as soon as they can do so without jeopardizing the investigation. On Wednesday, Mayor John Suthers also called for the police body cam footage to be released.
Until we have more facts, we should default to the department’s history of serving the public’s best interest by upholding the law without prejudice or passion. The department cannot be perfect but reliably strives for perfection.
Mayor Suthers — a former state prosecutor, state’s attorney general and U.S. attorney — issued a statement Tuesday that explains finding the truth:
“The City of Colorado Springs and CSPD recognize the concerns of many citizens of our community following the officer-involved shooting of De’Von Bailey on Saturday night. It is in the best interest of everyone involved, and our entire community, to ensure that the incident is fully and effectively investigated and an appropriate conclusion is reached. We know that there can be frustration with the time this takes, but we cannot compromise the investigation by failing to spend the appropriate time gathering the facts; that would serve no one.
“We pledge that the City and CSPD will work cooperatively and diligently with the investigating agency, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, to ensure a thorough evaluation of the evidence, and there is a robust process in place to accomplish this. The evidence gathered by the EPSO will be provided to the district attorney who will review the evidence and apply the Colorado law regarding use of force by police officers. The DA can decide whether or not to bring charges or refer the matter to a Grand Jury to make the determination.”
Allow the system to work and justice shall prevail.
Meanwhile, we should peacefully mourn the loss of this young man. We should keep him and his loved ones in our thoughts and prayers. Their pain is real, regardless of the facts.