Two Colorado Springs police officers took actions that were “objectively reasonable” and consistent with their use of force training and Colorado law when they shot 19-year-old De’Von Bailey on Aug. 3 as he sprinted away, according to a grand jury report released Thursday.
Fourth Judicial District Attorney Dan May announced the grand jury’s conclusions Wednesday, but the nine-page report provides more insight as to why the grand jury chose to unanimously agree the fatal shooting was justified. Bailey’s death prompted protests across the state, while the family and some elected officials, including Gov. Jared Polis, called for an independent investigation into the shooting by Sgt. Alan Van’t Land and Officer Blake Evenson.
“The events of August 3, 2019 were tragic,” the report’s conclusion reads. “The family and friends of Mr. Bailey have suffered an immeasurable loss. The community, witnesses and officers have all been deeply affected by this incident. None of this changed the fact that Mr. Bailey chose a course of action on August 3, 2019 that led Sgt. Van’t Land and Officer Evenson to make a real-time judgement to use deadly force to protect the community and law-abiding citizens they are sworn to protect.”
The grand jury noted that Colorado law allows police to use deadly force in two situations: One is referred to as the “fleeing felon” statue, and the other is self-defense and defense of others.
“The Grand Jury finds Sgt. Van’t Land and Officer Evenson were legally justified on both grounds,” the report said.
The “fleeing felon” law permits officers to use deadly force on someone they believe has committed a violent offense, even if they are running away. Officers had reason to believe that Bailey was armed, running in the direction of a park and elementary school during the day, the report said. Because of that, the grand jury concluded, officers were required to take action to protect the public.
Officers had stopped Bailey and another man because they fit the description from a 911 call reporting an armed robbery in the area. Body camera footage showed officers repeatedly requesting to see Bailey’s hands. When officers went to pat the teen down, he turned and ran down the street, “which further indicated to officers that he was armed,” the grand jury wrote.
“The officers’ discernment that Mr. Bailey posed a high-risk of imminent use of deadly force was objectively reasonable because he had his hands at his waist and refused commands to show his hands to officers.”
The report also indicated that the grand jury gave weight to the testimony of an independent use-of-force expert from out of state. The individual, who is not named, has been involved in numerous cases where the actions of officers were not deemed justified, the grand jury said.
“He concluded that the officers acted reasonably when they used lethal force to subdue Mr. Bailey,” according to the report.
The grand jury also decided that, in addition to Colorado law, the officers’ actions were consistent with their use of force training and followed the Colorado Springs Police Department use of force policy.
Mari Newman, an attorney representing the Bailey family, said Wednesday that the family was “extremely disappointed” with the grand jury’s conclusion and intends to peruse civil litigation. She called the investigation “tainted” and “biased” because the district attorney’s office and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, which investigated the shooting, work closely with the Colorado Springs Police Department.