A car chase leading to a hostage situation. A man pointing an air soft gun that looked like a real firearm. A man who pulled a gun out of his pocket as police approached.

These are the reasons Denver police leaders say officers shot and killed three people over the last week. On Wednesday, police leadership offered more details about the string of killings, which police Chief Paul Pazen said was out of the ordinary.

“This is very unusual, but we’re in very unusual times,” he said during a news conference Wednesday.

Pazen and other police officials did not specify whether any of the guns connected to the three police shootings were stolen.

Denver police have shot nine people so far this year, killing all but one. Last year, the agency’s officers shot nine people.

Lt. Matt Clark on Wednesday provided more details on the three most recent shootings, in which no officers were injured. Clark said there is no evidence to suggest any of the men were experiencing mental health crises. Police presented still images from video footage from two of the incidents, but did not play the videos.

Antonio Blackbear, 41, killed Sept. 9

More than a dozen calls poured into Denver’s 911 communications center after 5 p.m., Sept. 9 to report a man walking down a street near West High School pointing a gun at people, Clark said.

Provided by The Denver Police Department
Denver police say this still image from a video shows Antonio Blackbear, 41, brandishing a weapon on Sept. 9. Police shot and killed Blackbear and later learned the weapon was an airsoft gun that looked like a real firearm.

The man, later identified as Blackbear, was pointing the weapon at two people in a parked car when police arrived at 5:21 p.m., Clark said. Blackbear turned toward police and walked toward them with the weapon raised and disregarded commands to stop and drop the weapon, police said. Two officers opened fire, and Blackbear was later pronounced dead from his wounds.

The weapon was later identified as an air soft gun without a safety tip, according to a photo of the weapon displayed by police. The officers on scene believed the gun was real, Clark said.

The two officers have not previously been involved in a shooting and are on modified leave while the shooting is investigated.

Christopher Escobedo, 33, killed Sept. 12

Adams County deputies first contacted Escobedo after noticing his vehicle had no license plates, Clark said. Escobedo at first pulled over but sped away as a deputy approached.

The deputies pursued him in a high-speed chase that lasted for 14 minutes and traveled from north of Denver to a street just south of Sloan’s Lake. During the chase, Escobedo fired several bullets at pursuing deputies, Clark said. The female passenger in the car called 911 during the chase and told dispatchers that Escobedo threatened to kill her if they didn’t call off the pursuit, Clark said.

Denver police did not chase the car but helped to try to stop it. Escobedo crashed the car after hitting spiked strips law enforcement use to pop a car’s tires and losing control.

Escobedo and the female passenger climbed out of the car and then Escobedo held the woman hostage with a gun to her head, Clark said.

“The male positioned her between himself and the officers, using her as a human shield,” Clark said.

Denver police and Adams County deputies tried to de-escalate the situation but after nearly two minutes the man started making suicidal and homicidal threats, Clark said. An Adams County deputy positioned in a nearby alley then fired a single shot, striking Escobedo, Clark said.

The woman fled as Escobedo fell. Two Denver officers and two Adams County deputies shot Escobedo while he was on the ground because he still had a gun, which was recovered at the scene, Clark said.

The two Denver police officers, who joined the department in 2018 and 2017, are on modified duty, Clark said.

Sept. 15 shooting of unidentified man

Denver police responded to a call about a man with a gun about 10:34 p.m. Tuesday in the 2400 block of South Colorado Boulevard, Clark said. Officers talked with the man, who has not been identified by the coroner’s office, for several minutes after seeing a grip of a handgun protruding from his pocket.

The man pulled the gun from his pocket, prompting three officers to shoot him, Clark said.

Clark could not answer whether the man pointed the gun at the officers and said the investigation was just beginning.

Investigators recovered a handgun at the scene, Clark said.

The three officers involved are on modified duty. Two joined the department in 2013 and one joined in 2020.