Jul 20, 2022 - News

Denver police face new scrutiny after gunfire injures six bystanders

A Denver police officer in downtown Denver on June 26. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

An investigation is underway and three Denver police officers are on leave following an officer-involved shooting that left a half-dozen bystanders injured last weekend in Denver's Lower Downtown neighborhood.

Driving the news: In the early morning hours on Sunday, three officers fired seven rounds into a downtown crowd, injuring three women and three men. Local law enforcement say the officers were targeting a 21-year-old man who was pointing a handgun at them.

  • Department leaders are largely defending the officers' actions, telling reporters Wednesday that "in the moment, they were doing what they could to stop violence and ensure safety downtown," though they acknowledged "something could have been done differently."
  • But, but, but: The department has offered few additional details, and Cmdr. Matt Clark said "it may be difficult for us to offer conclusive evidence at any time." Police have not confirmed the cause of bystanders' injuries.

The other side: Multiple witnesses maintain that officers fired "randomly" into a packed street.

The big picture: This is the department's third officer-involved shooting in one week.

  • It comes just months after a federal jury ruled the city must pay $14 million for the police department's actions during the George Floyd protests in 2020.

Zoom in: Violent crime citywide is on the rise.

  • Denver has seen 53 killings this year, putting the city "on pace to exceed any year in modern recorded history," police chief Paul Pazen said at a new briefing Wednesday.

What they're saying: Mayor Michael Hancock told Axios Denver on Monday that he "could not be prouder" of the city's police department, despite officers' recent actions.

  • The mayor also stressed the importance of seeing the LoDo shooting investigation through before jumping to any conclusions.

What's next: Pazen said his team would release body camera footage in the coming days and conduct a thorough review of the shooting in coordination with the district attorney's office and the Office of the Independent Monitor.

Yes, but: The independent monitor's office — which serves as the city's top police watchdog — has sat vacant for more than a year. And it remains unclear when the position may be filled.

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