AURORA, Colo -- The Aurora police chief answered questions Monday about an officer-involved shooting Saturday that left a wanted suspect with serious injuries and sparked questions about the officer's decision to shoot.
The Aurora Police Department was conducting surveillance in the area of Sable Boulevard and Colfax Avenue on Saturday.
Officers wanted to arrest Michael Torres, who was wanted for aggravated motor vehicle theft. Police said they believed he was armed and dangerous.
When police tried to arrest Torres, he fled and an officer fired.
Torres' girlfriend, Stephanie Cervantes-Facio, was in the vehicle during the shooting. She said police rammed the back of the vehicle sending it away from officers and into a ditch.
She said she looked over and saw Torres had been shot. She said there was no gun in the vehicle, prompting questions about the officer's decision to fire.
"It was terrifying. I have never felt so scared in my life. I thought I was going to die. I have never been around gun shots or that kind of police brutality," Cervantes-Facio said.
During a news conference Monday, chief Nick Metz could not say why the officer fired, if he felt his life was in danger or if he saw a gun in the vehicle.
"That's a question now that we are still investigating. We are continuing to investigate it. The officer has provided a statement, but we are not in a position right now to release that information. That'll have to be reviewed by the district attorney's office," Metz said.
Metz was asked about the officer's decision to shoot, knowing Cervantes-Facio was in the passenger seat.
"Those are the questions that are going to be asked of the officer and other officers that were there, and certainly that is a concern and that's something that will be reviewed as we continue through the investigation," Metz said.
According to Aurora police's authorized firing of a weapon policy, "a moving vehicle alone will not presumptively constitute a threat that justifies a member's use of deadly or potentially deadly force.
"Members should not discharge a firearm at a moving vehicle unless a person in the vehicle is immediately threatening the member or another person with deadly force."
Metz would not release the name of the officer who fired the weapon, citing the ongoing investigation. He said the officer has had a great record with the department.
"The sergeant has been on for 13 years. He has a very good reputation in the department. This is his first officer-involved shooting," Metz said.
According to the 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," 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.
Torres' family said he is awake and in stable condition.
Police are working with the Denver Police Department and the district attorney's office on the investigation.AlertMe