Denver police chief says investigation into how LoDo bystanders were hurt could take days

Some in community pressing for answers as to why officers fired into crowd
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Posted at 5:36 PM, Jul 18, 2022

Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said the department might have an update to provide on the Sunday morning police shooting in which five bystanders were injured by Wednesday, saying investigators still have “critical” interviews to conduct before new information is released.

But some in the community are calling for greater transparency into what happened and asking why officers seemed to fire shots into a crowded area.

The shooting happened around the time the bars let out at 1:30 a.m. on Sunday. According to an affidavit for the arrest of Jordan Waddy, 21, whom Denver police are calling the suspect in the incident, five Denver officers were near 20th and Larimer patrolling.

The affidavit says one of the officers saw “an altercation” between three people near the front of the Larimer Beer Hall – one of them being Waddy.

The affidavit says that “Waddy began to grab at his waist band and lifted up his hoody as though he was armed with a handgun.”

Denver police chief says investigation into how LoDo bystanders were shot could take days

At that point, officers started to walk up to him, and he began to walk away, the affidavit says. It goes on to say that once he realized officers were walking after him, he walked back to the sidewalk near the bar.

“Officer [redacted] said he observed Waddy again reaching into his waist band or pocket in a motion consistent with pulling out a firearm. Officer [redacted] was standing alongside Officer [redacted] when Officer [redacted] said that Waddy had a firearm,” the affidavit says. “Officer [redacted] said he was in fear for his life as Waddy was now armed with a firearm and pointed the firearm in their direction.”

The affidavit next says that one of the officers said he heard “4 to 6 gunshots” and saw Waddy fall to the ground.

“Officer [redacted] said he observed Waddy throw the firearm onto the ground,” the affidavit says. It goes on to say that investigators recovered a Rock Island 1911 10mm handgun at the scene. Waddy’s arrest charges are felony menacing and possession of a weapon by a previous offender. He was still in the hospital as of Monday.

Denver police said in a news release shortly after 8 p.m. Sunday that aside from Waddy, five other people – three women and two men – were injured in the incident. The department said it was trying to determine whether they were shot or hit with shrapnel.

The department said in the same news release that it does not appear as though Waddy fired any weapon. The affidavit says there was one round in the chamber in the 1911 pistol that was recovered and seven rounds in the magazine.

But there have been questions from witnesses about whether Waddy had a gun, and why officers fired their weapons into an area crowded with people. A public information officer with the department confirmed all the five other peoples’ injuries were caused by officers firing their weapons.

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The police department said Sunday night that three officers were on administrative leave, indicating their involvement in the shooting.

The shooting is being investigated by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Colorado State Patrol, the Denver District Attorney’s Office, and DPD, with oversight from the Office of the Independent Monitor.

Chief Pazen was pressed Monday as to why so little information was made available the morning and day of the shooting, why police posted a brief video to Twitter at 4 a.m. Sunday instead of holding a press conference, and as to which victims might have been shot by police and why.

He spoke in a gaggle with reporters after Mayor Michael Hancock’s final State of the City address Monday morning.

“First and foremost, let me start off by saying that we are very concerned about anybody that was injured as a result of this incident. That is the priority,” he said. “…Investigators are reaching out to folks. We want to make sure that folks that may have been injured are supported.”

Pazen also said that it would likely be Wednesday, at the earliest, when Denver police provide their next update, saying: “This is not the time to get into the very detailed questions that folks may have because we have critical witnesses that have to be talked to and we need to ensure that there isn’t any bias that impacts the whole integrity of this investigation.”

He said forensics workers have a lot of evidence to process to try to find out if the five others who were injured were shot directly or wounded by ricochets or shrapnel.

“That’s exactly what we are looking at. Is this shrapnel? Is this debris? Is it direct fire? Is it indirect fire?” Pazen said. “And we want to, you know, certainly take a look at all of those, and it takes a little bit of time.”

He also said part of the review by the agencies will involve the tactics used by officers during the shooting in the crowded downtown area.

“We will review those internally to see if the tactics and the training utilized is appropriate,” Pazen said.

The incident happened as police have over the past couple of years put more marked cars, officers, lights, and cameras downtown as shootings and violence in the LoDo area have gone up – especially in the late-night hours when the bars and clubs close.

Pazen pointed to other violent crime across Denver throughout the weekend as another thing his officers have had to address. Sunday’s police shooting was the third in five days involving Denver officers.

“Our officers, our investigators have been working very hard to ensure that we have very comprehensive investigations related to those incidents, as well as the multiple shootings that took place, including a homicide that a beloved member of our community is no longer here as a result of,” the chief said.

Pazen said the reason the department did not host a news conference early Sunday morning was because “newsrooms have cut back” and said people weren’t able to attend the briefing because of staffing levels. Newsrooms do typically have fewer people working the weekends than the weekdays, especially in the early-morning hours in which the shooting and initial investigation occurred.

The Denver Police Department Twitter account, which the department uses to post most of its updates, as its scanners are encrypted, tweeted at 3:07 a.m. that a public information officer was at the scene of the shooting. Its 53-second update from Division Chief Ron Thomas was posted on the account at 4:03 a.m.

“We had, just as it is our practice, the division chief of patrol gives that initial update and we didn’t have folks that were available from the media to join us, is my understanding,” Pazen said.

He added that four of the five people not including Waddy who were injured Sunday morning were out of the hospital as of Monday. Waddy was still in the hospital Monday. His court appearance got pushed to Tuesday and could be moved back again if he remains hospitalized. Some of the victims have already reached out to attorneys in the Denver area.

On Monday night, attorney Siddhartha Rathod said his law office was representing one of the victims who was shot in the arm early Sunday morning. Rathod said the person’s arm is “shattered,” that the bullet is still in their arm and they are receiving medical care.

The Colorado Department of Corrections said Tuesday Waddy was on parole from a Youthful Offender System sentence from a 2017 incident. Because he was in the last 6-12 months of his sentence, he was placed on community supervision, as is standard, and could live in transitional housing, with family, or in independent living.

Court records show that case involves Waddy pleading guilty to aggravated robbery and attempted aggravated robbery in a 2017 case in which he was initially charged with first-degree murder. He pleaded guilty in July 2018.

According to an arrest affidavit, Waddy was with other teenagers during a marijuana robbery when one teen was shot and killed, though it was not clear, according to the affidavit, who fired the bullet that killed the teen.

He entered this phase of his sentence last November and was scheduled to complete his sentence on Nov. 12.

The spokesperson said Waddy was wearing a GPS ankle monitor and broke curfew Saturday night into Sunday morning, and as such, the department will start the process to revoke the terms of his supervision while he is in custody in Denver.

Court records show prosecutors filed a motion asking for more time to file criminal charges against him on Tuesday. Waddy's first appearance was again vacated Tuesday.

Pazen also said Monday that criminals should be held accountable.

“We talked about ensuring that officers are held accountable for their actions,” Pazen said. “We certainly need to ensure that violent and repeat offenders are held accountable for their actions as well.”

But community leaders in Denver said they have plenty more questions for the chief.

“Law enforcement were the ones who fired their weapons. I think one thing that we need to discuss is how come officers feel comfortable discharging their weapons in a crowded environment? How come five other people were hit, and we can't even get an apology?” said Denver Task Force to Reimagine Policing and Public Safety Community Relations Director Alexander Landau.

A few months ago, the task force gave DPD 112 recommendations on how to improve relations between officers and the community. Landau said at least one of the recommendations included re-evaluating how officers are disciplined.

“It’ll be interest to see how the officers are disciplined in this process,” Landau said. “Will the officer be deemed to have violated some level of the excessive force policy?”

He said in this case, it appears multiple people were at fault.

“Obviously, the individuals who were in the altercation were at fault. The individual who allegedly wielded a gun at officers; officers for shooting the individual the way that they did – hitting the bystanders,” he added.

Landau says this is an opportunity for DPD and the community to have a conversation about how to create a safer nightlife in LoDo. But that conversation should start with DPD admitting something went wrong this past weekend, he said.