Dec 11, 2020 | NEWS | By April Kwan | Illustration by Jubilee Rivera-Hernandez
On Aug. 3, 2019, two CSPD officers shot and killed De’Von Bailey. Weeks later, on Aug. 27, police in Aurora, Colo. killed Elijah McClain. These were just two of the 41 Coloradans killed by police in 2019 — though it is worth noting that data about police brutality tend to be incomplete by nature. These injustices constitute part of the mappingpoliceviolence.net dataset, in which Colorado is shown to have the sixth highest rate in the U.S. of fatal encounters with the police.
Between January 2013 and September 2020, 268 police killings occurred in Colorado, or 5.9 per million residents, according to mappingpoliceviolence.org.
Below you will find a breakdown of annual police killings in the state of Colorado:
- 2013 had 21 killings
- 2014 had 21 killings
- 2015 had 29 killings
- 2016 had 31 killings
- 2017 had 35 killings
- 2018 had 48 killings
- 2019 had 41 killings
- And as of September, there were 42 killings in 2020.
This data also demonstrates the significantly higher rates at which Black and Latinx folk experience violence at the hands of the police. In Colorado, Black people make up 4% of the population, yet 10% of the people killed by police since January 2013 were Black. This makes Black people 3.7 times more likely to be killed by police than white people, whereas Latinx people were 2.2 times more likely to be killed than white people.
On Aug. 3, 2019, 19-year-old De’von Bailey and Lawrence Stoker were approached by Colorado Springs police officers Sgt. Alan Van’t Land and Officer Blake Evenson in an ongoing robbery investigation. When questioned, Bailey fled and was shot seven times in the back, according to footage from the officers’ body cameras. This resulted in numerous protests demanding for the body camera footage to be released.
A neighbor’s security cameras were released; the Colorado Springs Police also released two angles of footage and the 911 call within two weeks of the incident. More protests occurred requesting that Sgt. Alan Van’t Land and Officer Blake Evenson be discharged, but they continued to work.
On Oct. 4, District Attorney Dan May referred the case to a grand jury. In the following month, the grand jury deemed that Sgt. Alan Van’t Land and Officer Blake Evenson would not face criminal charges. The files in the investigation seen by the District Attorney’s office and the grand jury were made public soon after.
The following March, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported that De’von Bailey’s killing “wasn’t a willful violation of Bailey’s Constitutional rights.”
Come June, the family of De’von Bailey filed a lawsuit against Colorado Springs, the Colorado Springs Police Department, and Sgt. Alan Van’t Land and Officer Blake Evenson. Shortly after, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a police accountability bill that received bipartisan support, which forbids police officers to shoot if the suspect is fleeing.
Another highly publicized case is 23-year-old Elijah McClain, who was killed on Aug. 27, 2019, after going into cardiac arrest following his encounter with the police.
On Aug. 24, Elijah McClain was walking home from a convenience store when the police were called because someone thought he appeared suspicious. Elijah was wearing a ski mask, which his family mentioned he often did because of his anemia.
The police arrived and three officers allegedly struggled to restrain Elijah, who weighed 140 pounds, and placed him in a chokehold. Paramedics then injected him with a large dose of a sedative, ketamine. On the way to the hospital, Elijah went into cardiac arrest and was pronounced brain dead a few days later.
On Nov. 7, the autopsy from Adams County Coroner’s Office was inconclusive in determining the cause of death.
On Nov. 22, the 17th Judicial District Attorney, Dave Young, determined that the three officers from the Aurora Police Department who were involved in Elijah McClain’s death, officers Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt, and Randy Roedema, would not have charges filed against them. This resulted in protests to increase police accountability.
Come June, an executive order was signed by Gov. Jared Polis for the Attorney General to launch an investigation into Elijah McClain’s death. Officers Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt, and Randy Roedema were taken off of street duty. Later, the U.S Attorney’s Office for Colorado, the Department of Justice, and the Denver Federal Bureau of Investigation announced investigations into Elijah McClain’s death. These investigations are all currently ongoing.
Later in August, Elijah McClain’s family filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Aurora through the U.S District Court of Colorado. Since then, Aurora has filed to dismiss this civil rights case, which includes claims of excessive force, racially biased policing, and failure to provide medical treatment, all of which led to Elijah’s death.
De’Von Bailey and Elijah McClain are only two of the many stories of police killings that have expanded discussions regarding police brutality, racism, and gun violence in Colorado. Since the nation-wide Black Lives Matter protests after George Floyd’s death in Minnesota, many Americans have called for political action in an attempt to end police brutality and racially-biased policing.
Clearly, Colorado’s high rate of police killings, more deadly against non-white Coloradans, demonstrates a need for change in the state.