DENVER — Two separate shootings involving Denver police officers in the span of a day highlight “the challenge in Denver with too many guns in the community” and the importance of officers to wear bulletproof vests while out in the streets, so said Chief of Police Ron Thomas during a news conference Wednesday.
The chief made the remarks as he provided more details on two separate shootings that occurred hours apart on June 7, in which two officers were injured and one suspect was killed.
“Nobody’s been able to give us a reason for him ambushing the officer that day”
The first shooting occurred outside a Quality Inn near the intersection of W. 26h Ave. and Zuni Street.
The suspect in the shooting, 35-year-old Nicholas Lendrum, reportedly drove to the location at around 4:02 a.m. that day and waited a few minutes inside his parked vehicle before entering the hotel to ask about renting a room.
Ten minutes later, at 4:12 a.m., Lendrum walked out the front doors after learning how expansive it would be to rent a room there, and “without warning or prior interaction,” he began firing at an officer sitting inside his patrol car, striking him several times.
The officer – who was only identified as a corporal on District 6 who’s been with the department since 2013 – then got out of his patrol car through the driver’s side door and returned fire, using the patrol car as cover as he and the suspect fired at each other.
For about 30 seconds, a shootout ensued before the officer struck the suspect, who was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
In all, Lendrum fired 18 rounds from a Glock 26 9mm handgun, according to Denver Police Commander Matt Clark. The officer fired a total of 17 in return.
Lendrum was also carrying with him a loaded 38-caliber revolver at the time of the shooting, but never used it.
The suspect hit the officer twice in the back and once in the lower abdomen area, but the officer’s life was saved by a bulletproof vest, Clark said. The officer is currently recovering from his wounds.
“Nobody’s been able to give us a reason for him ambushing the officer that day,” Clark said, when asked about the suspect’s history and motive. “We have not been able to determine what led to the shooting.”
The hotel where the shooting took place is currently being used as a temporary shelter for Central and South American migrants, Thomas said, which is why the officer was patrolling the area at the time.
Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. shooting raises questions about officers’ language
Editor's note: Denver District Attorney Beth McCann announced on Nov. 22 that after reviewing the facts of the below case, no criminal charges will be filed against the Denver police officer who shot and injured a 17 year-old. The DA said Calderon fired two shots from his semi-automatic handgun as police chased him, with one shot hitting the gun magazine on the front of an officer's duty belt. In return, the officer fired eight shots, two of which Calderon. He now faces several charges, including attempted murder.
About 15 hours later, at around 7:28 p.m., the ShotSpotter detection system captured the sound of seven gunshots being fired in the area of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Dexter St.
That alert was soon followed by a call from a resident in the area, who reported to police that a shooting had taken place a few moments earlier.
When officers responded, they were flagged down by another resident who described the suspect as a Black man wearing red pants accompanied by a white woman, who were riding away from the scene in a scooter.
Clark said that about a minute later, officers responding to the scene found the suspect and his companion and ordered them to stop before the suspect – who was only identified as a 17-year-old juvenile by police Wednesday – scooted away, heading toward MLK Jr. Blvd.
Body cam video shows approaching officers telling the suspect to stop or he’s “gonna get f----d up.”
The suspect is then seen running away from officers before a chase ensues.
The body cam video shows police eventually catching up with the suspect, who had cut between two housing buildings, and at least two officers chasing the suspect on foot and ordering him to drop his weapon.
“Drop it, mother----r! I’m going to shoot you!” one of the officers is heard telling the 17-year-old, after repeatedly ordering the suspect to drop his weapon.
The juvenile suspect disobeys this command from officers and keeps running between the two housing buildings before pointing his weapon at the officers in what police described as a two-handed grip, and firing one round at them.
At least one of the officers fires his gun multiple times in response, the video shows, before the juvenile suspect is seen falling to the grass.
“Get on down or I’m gonna kill you, mother----r!” one of the officers is heard telling the teen suspect, who at this point is on the ground holding what appears to be a cell phone in his hand. “I’m going to shoot you if you don’t f-----g stop!” the officer tells him.
The body cam video then shows the suspect pinned down by two officers at this point, before the officer who fired his weapon tells him, “I’m going to f-----g kill you, I swear to God.”
One of the officers who has the suspect pinned to the grass is then heard saying, “I’ll f-----g shoot you, do you understand?! I will f-----g blow your head off! Do not move!”
The body cam video ends with the officer who shot the suspect telling dispatch “he’s bleeding all over.”
The officer, who has been with DPD since 2017 and who works with the narcotics investigation unit for District 2, was not struck by a bullet from the juvenile, but was instead injured by shrapnel from the magazine the officer was carrying in his duty belt, Clark said during the news conference Wednesday.
“The department recognizes the strong language used by officers during incident,” Thomas said, in response to a question about the incident. “It will be examined as part of administrative review of this case.”
Thomas said that the strong language was “certainly not consistent with communication in the department,” and added it’s something that the Denver Police Department will consider during the review, which could lead to the officers facing some kind of discipline.
The 17-year-old, who was taken into custody after he was released from the hospital following the shooting, had a Taurus 9 mm handgun with a drum magazine capable of holding 50 rounds, according to Clark. That drum magazine was not loaded when it was recovered, he said.
“It’s more common today to find a gun with that kind of drum on it,” Thomas said, before adding the department has recovered more than 1,000 illegal guns so far this year.
Asked about what he would do to reduce these types of incidents, Thomas said he would push for safer storage and responsible ownership of firearms, as police are finding too many guns stolen out of cars or vehicles.
As for the language used by the officers in the MLK Jr. Blvd. shooting, Thomas responded that while he understand this is a traumatic event, “certain language is understandable and could be acceptable at times.”
The department, he said, would have to know intent or justification before talking about penalizing the officers for using such language.
Police were pressed by reporters about what the department was doing to reduce violence around the city. Thomas said in response the department has identified high-crime areas and employed successful strategies to stymie crime.
He said that while there's certainly more work to do, the department will continue to review data and discuss current strategies to find out whether they're working or whether they need to be altered "in order to get in front of that violence."
“Certainly in my 34-year career, we've not seen two officers injured in shootings in just one calendar day,” Thomas said. "There are far too many guns in our community, far too many individuals that feel emboldened to use them during the daylight in large crowds, even very near where police officers are known to be. So certainly, that's a challenge that we need to continue to address.”