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Transgender person who brandished knife killed by police after Tasers failed to stop them, DPD says

The person who was killed was identified as 52-year-old Miguel Tapia.
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Posted at 3:47 PM, Jun 25, 2024

DENVER — The Denver Police Department released body-worn footage showing the moments leading up to officers shooting and killing a person who was armed with a knife in the middle of an intersection earlier this month.

The shooting happened on June 16 at around 11:30 a.m. in the intersection of Broadway and Lawrence Street in Denver.

The person who was killed was identified as 52-year-old Miguel Tapia. Previously, the person was identified by Denver police as a woman and during a press briefing on Tuesday was described as a transgender person.

“We have discovered the person was transgendered and there was a belief that the person was houseless but that did not factor into our decision,” said Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas. “What factored into our decision was the person had a knife and was moving aggressively toward the officers. They tried, I think in vain, to stop them with less lethal means and then had to transition to a lethal option when that didn’t work.”

DPD Commander Matt Clark said during Tuesday’s briefing that the incident began with several motorists reporting a person standing in the intersection. “One caller advised the subject was yelling at passing motorists ’to kill them,’” added Clark.

He said a nearby Denver Park Ranger also observed Tapia in the roadway who then alerted police dispatchers that “the subject had a knife with an eight-inch blade in a bag.”

“When officers arrived, the subject was carrying several bags but did not have a weapon in their hand,” said Clark. “The officers could see the handle of what appeared to be a large knife in a bag that the person was wearing over their shoulder.”

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DPD Commander Matt Clark said during Tuesday’s briefing that the incident began with several motorists reporting a person standing in the intersection.

He said officers attempted to de-escalate the situation by speaking in both English and Spanish to Tapia.

“And an officer also visually demonstrated that he wanted the person to put their hands on their head,” said Clark. “The subject did not comply with the officer’s direction and instead retrieved the large knife for the over-the-shoulder bag they were wearing. The subject held the knife in their right hand while pointing it - the point of the knife directly at officers,” he added.

Denver police released two different body-worn camera videos, each running around one-minute long, which began with officers first arriving on the scene.

An officer could be heard on the video repeating commands to Tapia.

“Hey, put your stuff down and put your hands on your head! Put your hands on your head!” said one officer, who again repeated the command.

Denver police shoot, kill knife-wielding woman at downtown intersection

The second body-worn footage showed one officer fire a Taser seconds after Tapia, who was carrying a backpack and a bag, pulled out a large knife.

“One officer had previously drawn his Taser and upon seeing the subject with the knife, the officer deployed the Taser at the subject. The Taser device appeared to have a very brief impact but was not effective at stopping the subject’s intentional movement toward the officers,” said Clark. “When it was clear the subject was not incapacitated by the initial Taser deployment, the same officer deployed a second cartridge from their Taser. At the same time, a second officer deployed their Taser.”

Clark said neither Taser deployment stopped Tapia’s movements toward the officers.

“Recognizing the Tasers were not effective in stopping the subject, both officers transitioned from their Taser devices to their duty handguns,” said Clark. “In fearing the individual would attack them with the knife, both officers discharged their firearms multiple times.”

Both body-worn cameras showed the sequence leading up to the fatal shots.

“Just prior to this, a uniformed patrol sergeant – who is a supervisor – arrived at the intersection,” Clark said. “The sergeant observed the subject advancing toward the officers with the knife and feared they would be stabbed. The sergeant discharged his duty handgun multiple times.”

A total of 12 rounds were fired at Tapia in “approximately 2 seconds,” said Clark.

“An ambulance was summoned to the scene and quickly arrived. The subject was assessed by paramedics and pronounced deceased at the scene,” he said.

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Investigators located the knife which had a blade of around 7 inches, police said.

Investigators located the knife which had a blade of around seven inches, police said.

“Two Taser devices were recovered at the scene and an analysis of each Taser indicated one Taser discharged twice and the other Taser was deployed one time,” said Clark. “While the first Taser deployment appears to briefly have been effective, it was clear the subject was not incapacitated as they continued to aggressively move towards the officers. The two subsequent Taser deployments were not effective in stopping the individual.”

Of the three DPD officers who fired weapons, two were patrol officers assigned to patrol District 6 in downtown. One officer joined DPD in 2018 and the other in 2022, said Clark.

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Ron Thomas, Denver Police Chief and DPD Commander Matt Clark during Tuesday's press conference.

The third officer who fired a weapon was a sergeant who started with DPD in 2001. None of the officers had previously been involved in a prior police shooting, said DPD, all of whom remain on modified duty status while the investigation unfolds.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation and Colorado State Patrol are conducting investigations which will be overseen by the Office of Independent Monitor which will then turn over the findings to the Denver District Attorney’s Office.

Body cam: Transgender person with knife killed by DPD after Tasers failed to stop them

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