Jul 21, 2022 - News

Denver leader says trust in police "is shaken" after bystanders shot

Illustration of a cracked magnifying glass over a police badge.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A prominent city leader is calling for "additional scrutiny and accountability" of the Denver Police Department after officers shot six bystanders last weekend.

Driving the news: Councilwoman Robin Kniech, leader of the safety committee, said she's concerned about the community's "shaken trust" in the department after the early-morning shooting in the Lower Downtown neighborhood.

In a statement issued Thursday, Kniech expressed direct frustration at Mayor Michael Hancock's reaction, in which he asked for Denver's patience amid the investigation.

  • "Our city's calls to patiently wait for an investigation could be perceived as conflicting with DPD statements defending the officers' actions long before those investigations are complete," Kniech noted.
  • "By definition, that is a mass shooting," Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca told the Denver Post.

The other side: A spokesperson for Hancock told Axios Denver that the mayor has not changed his position, and that he continues to ask for patience from the public.

  • The Denver Police Department said it will continue to offer resources and support through the Victim Assistance Unit, and recognizes "the need to rebuild trust with the community."
  • On Wednesday, police said "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."

Catch up quick: Police opened fire near the popular corner of Larimer and 20th streets at 1:30am after reportedly following a suspect involved in an earlier altercation. Police say the suspect pulled out a gun.

  • Seven shots were fired by three officers. The suspect and six bystanders were injured. At least two of the bystanders suffered gunshot wounds.
  • Authorities have yet to confirm the cause of bystanders' injuries. Cmdr. Matt Clark said "it may be difficult for us to offer conclusive evidence at any time."

What they're saying: Two of the six bystanders are demanding accountability, Denver7 reports.

"Why would they do this? Why would they shoot into crowded places? Are they even trained to do what they did? Why wouldn't they care for the public rather than only care for themselves? Isn't that their job?"
— Yekalo Weldehiwet, a 26-year-old data analyst shot in the arm
"I would really just like to hear from them. Taking accountability, taking responsibility for their actions. And an apology, which I know will probably never come ... But just how disappointed I am with the people who are supposed to be keeping us safe in situations like that."
— Bailey Alexander, a 24-year-old surgical assistant who was shot

What's next: A pair of investigations into the shooting are ongoing, as the councilwoman assured the public. Neither will be conducted by Denver Police.

  • In the next three weeks, police are expected to release body camera footage from the scene, as required by law, after an attorney for the bystanders filed a complaint.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the suspect and six bystanders were injured, with the suspect being hit by multiple shots and at least two bystanders suffering gunshot wounds, not that the suspect was hit once by a gunshot and the others hit the bystanders.

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