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Polis calls for independent investigation into police shooting of De'Von Bailey

Posted at 12:44 PM, Aug 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-22 18:27:45-04

DENVER – Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday called for an independent investigation of the killing of De'Von Bailey, the Colorado Springs teenager who was shot by police earlier this month.

The 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office in El Paso County is reviewing the shooting to determine whether charges should be filed against the officers. It would be up to the district attorney's office to recuse itself from the case and ask another agency to lead the outside investigation.

Polis, in his statement Thursday, asked the district attorney's office "to consider turning the investigation's findings over to another local jurisdiction for independent review, and if warranted, additional information gathering."

Polis said Thursday that "fairness and objectivity are key to ensuring the public trusts the integrity of any investigation."

"Given how the events have unfolded surrounding the death of De'Von Bailey – the public details and video that have been shared and the questions that have been raised by the general public – I hope that El Paso County takes steps above those legally required to additionally maximize the public trust in the investigation," Polis said.

As is common with officer-involved shootings involving Colorado Springs police, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office investigated the case and turned over its findings to the district attorney. The sheriff's office typically investigates shootings involving Colorado Springs police officers, and vice versa.

Bailey's family and their supporters have called for an independent investigation into the case. The family and their attorneys were planning a news conference and a rally at 5:30 p.m. Thursday to also call on police officials to release an unedited bodycam footage of the shooting.

Bailey, 19, was shot by officers on Aug. 3, after police had responded to a report of a robbery in a Colorado Springs neighborhood. Two officers arrived and found Bailey and another man and told the two that they matched the description of the robbery suspects.

As one officer approached Bailey to search for a weapon, Bailey took off running. The officers then fired at least eight shots at Bailey as he ran away, striking him three times in the lower back and once in the arm.

He was taken to a hospital, where he died.

The edited video released by police last week included bodycam footage of the officers' interactions with Bailey and the other man and 911 audio from the person who reported the robbery.

The bodycam footage included vantage points from two officers and showed the moments before the shooting, as the officers questioned Bailey and the other man, and then the shooting. Both videos ended as officers tended to Bailey's wounds on the ground.

Additional surveillance video of the shooting, obtained by Denver7, showed medical personnel continuing to tend to Bailey and perform CPR.

Watch the full video released by Colorado Springs police:

Full video from Colorado Springs Police Department shows shooting of De'Von Bailey

Michael J. Rourke, 19th Judicial District Attorney and president of the Colorado District Attorneys' Council, responded to Polis' call for an independent investigation in a statement Thursday afternoon, saying the shooting was investigated by a Deadly Force Investigations Team, in compliance with state law. The team was formed after legislation in 2016 and includes members of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, the Colorado Springs Police Department and the district attorney's office.

"It is not the duty of an elected District Attorney to simply transfer investigations or cases to another DA simply because they are difficult, complex, or the subject of media coverage," Rourke said. "Clearly the Governor felt the need to respond to the media attention that this investigation has received, but the elected district attorneys and our law enforcement partners handle these investigations routinely and do so with the utmost professionalism."

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, in a statement, said Polis "appears politically motivated" by calling for the independent investigation.

Polis "cites no legal or ethical basis that should cause fourth judicial district (which includes El Paso and Teller Counties) district attorney charged with the responsibility to make a charging decision to recuse himself," Suthers' statement said. "Of note, he does not take the position that every district attorney in every judicial district in Colorado, including Denver, Boulder and Pueblo, should recuse themselves from making decisions in officer involved shootings in their districts."

Suthers acknowledged that community members "are experiencing a great deal of emotion" over the shooting.

"But this is a time for healing and allowing legal processes to run their course and not to act with political expedience," Suthers said.

The Colorado Attorney General's Office in a statement earlier this week said it had met with members of the Colorado Springs community who had come to Denver to deliver a petition calling for the independent investigation.

"There is pain in the community and calls for accountability and it was important for us to listen and have dialogue," the attorney general's office's statement said. "The Attorney General's office has also been in touch with local law enforcement. Our hope is to learn from this incident and work with communities so that they feel safe and work with law enforcement to ensure they have the tools they need to protect the communities they serve."

The officers involved in the shooting, Sgt. Alan Van't Land and officer Blake Evenson, were placed on administrative leave after the shooting but returned to work after the sheriff's office completed its investigation.