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Murder warrant submitted to DA's Office for review in deadly Aurora shooting by ex-officer

Prosecutors would decide whether police case warrants formal charges
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Posted at 1:35 PM, Dec 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-21 00:56:01-05

DENVER – Aurora police submitted a second-degree murder warrant last week to prosecutors for review in the deadly Nov. 24 shooting of a 17-year-old by a former Greenwood Village police officer.

The police department said it submitted the warrant for the former officer, Adam Holen, to the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s office on Thursday.

The district attorney’s office would decide whether to move forward with charges, but a spokesperson for the office said Monday it did not “have anything new” on the case as of 1 p.m.

Holen, 36, exchanged gunfire with Peyton Blitstein, 17, around 10:30 p.m. in the 4900 block of S. Addison Way on Nov. 24. Blitstein died in the shooting, and Holen was also shot but survived, Aurora police said earlier this month. Detectives said Holen and a group of teenagers had started arguing about careless driving in the neighborhood before the shooting.

Todd Blitstein, Petyon's father, held a press conference Monday afternoon saying, "I was hoping for a first-degree [charge], but if it's a second-degree that we gotta go with, let's do it,"

The father said he couldn't discuss details of how or why his son was carrying a gun on the night of Nov. 24, however, he did elaborate on how the situation has affected him and his loved ones.

"Extremely chaotic, extremely hard on a daily basis not knowing where Peyton's fate or our fate was gonna go... we were worried about a lesser charge," he said. "It's been a up and down roller coaster for everybody."

Though the decision on if or what charges are filed against Holen ultimately lies with 18th Judicial District Attorney John Kellner.

David Lane, a civil rights attorney, weighed in on the matter.

"This is one of those cases where the video doesn't tell the story to the point where prosecutors can make a decision whether to charge or not simply based on the video," Lane said. "I'm guessing that this case involves numerous eyewitnesses and possibly statements."

Detectives worked for at least three weeks before the recommendation for a second-degree murder charge was passed to the DA.

"Second-degree is basically you lose your cool... you know what you're doing, but you've lost your cool, and in the heat of passion, you kill someone. It's a hasty and impulsive act," Lane said.

Lane said he believed the previous DA would've been reluctant to prosecute a second-degree murder charge.

"The 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office, under George Brauchler at least, had a very long history of never seeing a cop who committed a crime ever," he said. "Basically, Brauchler was very reluctant to ever prosecute cops. We'll see if the DA currently in office is more readily willing to do that."

Lane also said he believes politics play a role in some of the decision making.

"Elected district attorneys are, in fact, politicians. If they think it's gonna gain them votes to charge this cop, they'll charge this cop. If they think they're gonna lose votes if they charge this cop, they won't charge this cop."

Now that a recommendation has been made, Kellner can either follow it, file different charges or file no charges at all.

"I know during Christmas, we're planning on just having a dinner, and we'll leave Peyton's chair empty, but the timing that this has happened has completely ruined our holidays," Todd Blitstein said.

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Holen resigned from the Greenwood Village Police Department on Nov. 1 prior to the incident. He worked for the department since August 2016, the department said.

According to a resignation letter obtained by Denver7, Holen said the decision was in his "family's best interest."

During a November press conference, Todd Blitstein said days after the shooting he had woken up early that Thursday morning and seen a neighborhood alert on his phone about a shooting in his neighborhood. Shortly afterward, police rang his doorbell. He asked the officers if his son was OK, and they told him he was dead.