By Jacqueline Nkhonjera and Sam Pfeifer
On Aug. 3, 45 days ago, Colorado Springs Police Sergeant Alan Van’t Land and Officer Blake Evenson received a dispatch call about an armed personal robbery in the Southeast neighborhood called ‘K-Land.’ A few minutes later, the officers arrived at Adams Park, where it runs parallel to Pruess Road and you can see John Adams Elementary School on the other side of the park.
Sergeant Van’t Land’s bodycam footage began moments before the officers’ first encounter with De’Von Bailey and Lawrence Stoker, the alleged suspects.
Sergeant Van’t Land initiated a conversation with the two young men. “What’s going on today?” asked Sergeant Van’t Land.
He stressed that the two keep their hands out of their pockets. Officer Evenson began to walk behind them to search for weapons.
De’Von bolted toward the park, running away from the officers. Almost instantaneously, Sergeant Van’t Land fired 4 rounds into De’Von’s back. He fell to the ground.
“Put your hands up!” yelled Sergeant Van’t Land. De’Von responded quickly.
The officers proceeded, first, to handcuff De’Von. Then, they checked for potential weapons. Only after all of that did they deem it necessary to perform medical procedures.
Blood is seeping into the concrete. De’Von’s life slowly faded away.
Attitudes toward the shooting of De’Von Bailey are dependent upon perception. From watching the CSPD bodycam footage, along with reading statements by public officials — most notably Mayor John Suthers — one can easily infer that procedure was followed. One may perceive that everything was done by the books. However, it is hard to determine the facts in the footage provided by the CSPD. The footage is edited, not raw. It clearly portrays a narrative supporting the actions of the involved officers — De’Von was an armed criminal who chose his fate, right? Think again.
The footage was slowed down as he ran, creating the impression that De’Von attempted to reach for a gun despite the video never showing one. After he was shot, bloody and handcuffed, lying on the ground, the officers searched for a weapon – that’s when Evenson claimed a gun was in his pant leg.
In a recent Op-Ed published by the Colorado Springs Gazette Editorial Board, they assert that, “Legal experts who have studied the Bailey videos believe the circumstances and outcomes were fairly routine among officer-involved shootings.” So the edited footage shows.
We think this is beside the point. What is missing from the dialogue are steps toward providing fair due process for De’Von and his family — something that they were not given. De’Von was presumed guilty before anyone could argue that he may have been innocent.
Colorado Springs community members gathered at City Hall on Sept. 10 to voice their thoughts on the issue and to verbalize the pain and loss felt by the community during this time.
Following the City Hall meeting, Mayor John Suthers released a statement saying that “the FBI and DOJ have jurisdiction to review the matter, and it’s my understanding that they are doing so.”
While the sentiment may be sincere, Mayor Suthers is seriously overplaying the role of a federal investigation. The job of the FBI is routine; they look into all officer-involved shootings for potential civil-rights violations. The FBI does not recommend charges to the district attorney.
Again, this does not, in any sense, give De’Von and his family fair due process.
An independent investigation would allow people to see the De’Von Bailey case from a perspective that isn’t as convoluted with biases. However, we can’t unpack that stage of this story without acknowledging these biases to begin with.
It is important that we, as consumers of media, are critical of all narratives that come our way. A video released by CSPD doesn’t inherently speak to the validity or accuracy of its content and recognition that is vital to this call for action by Colorado Springs community members.
Watching the death of De’Von Bailey on tape brought members of the community down to City Hall to demand justice. Watching the strikingly different versions of the same video should prompt us to do the same.
The first thing every single one of us can do is sign the petition that is circulating in the state. It calls for an independent investigation and requires as many signatures as possible. If you haven’t signed it already, we urge you to do so. You can do so online, on your own, or at a table in Worner Campus Center after class today, Friday, Sept. 27.
What we don’t urge you to do is to read this article and simply go back to what you were doing before. To provide due process for De’Von requires action. It requires the community of Colorado College to stand up and demand compassion and justice.