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Questions emerge about use of force after officer-involved shooting in Aurora

AURORA, Colo. -- A criminal defense attorney said based on the information available, he has questions about an officer-involved shooting that left one man with serious injuries in Aurora on Saturday.

The family of 24-year-old Michael Torres said he was shot and seriously injured by police as they were trying to make an arrest.

The shooting happened around 3 p.m. just north of East Colfax Avenue on Sable Boulevard.

Police said officers were conducting surveillance in the area. They wanted to arrest the man because he was wanted for aggravated motor vehicle theft.

“The suspect did flee in the vehicle. It did end up in the ditch. During the incident, shots were fired and the suspect was hit,” Aurora police spokeswoman Diana Cooley said.

According to the Aurora Police Department’s use-of-force policy, officers can use physical force when making an arrest or in preventing an escape.

“A peace officer is justified in using reasonable and appropriate physical force upon another person when and to the extent that he reasonably believes it necessary," the police said.

Criminal defense attorney Dan Recht said deadly force on someone who was wanted for aggravated motor vehicle theft is not “reasonable” or “appropriate.”

“Just because you believe someone stole a car doesn't give you the right to shoot with deadly force,” Recht said.

He said based on the charges Torres faces and officers’ response, he has questions.

“The use of deadly force, shooting through a car, if that's in fact what happened, in my view, is unreasonable force and excessive force,” Recht said.

Police said Torres was known to be armed and dangerous. Cooley said Torres fled in his car when officers approached and then an officer fired.

"We had an officer that did fire shots and at this time it is still under investigation as to why," Cooley said.

Stephanie Cervantes-Facio said she was in the car with Torres when the shooting happened. She said the two had gone to a store to pick up clothes.

They came out, got into her vehicle, started to drive and she said that's when police rammed into the back of the car, sending them into a ditch.

"He tried to push on the brakes up. The cops started firing at us and we were unarmed and we were doing nothing wrong," Cervantes-Facio said.

She said the windows of the car shattered and Torres was unresponsive.

"It was terrifying. I have never felt so scared in my life. I thought I was going to die. I have never been around gunshots or that kind of police brutality," Cervantes-Facio said.

She said Torres did not have a gun in the car and said he is not wanted for aggravated motor vehicle theft.

"Michael Torres is innocent," Cervantes-Facio said. "They are going to try to pin it all on him. Try and pin it. And that's not true."

A background check on Torres did not find anything indicating he is wanted for aggravated motor vehicle theft.

Cooley could not confirm Torres' name, citing the ongoing investigation, but said the person police were trying to arrest does have an active warrant for aggravated motor vehicle theft.

The officer involved in the shooting is on paid administrative leave until the investigation is complete.