AURORA, Colo — The Aurora police officer who shot a suspected car thief in April will not face charges, the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.
The Aurora Police Department was conducting surveillance in the area of Sable Boulevard and Colfax Avenue on April 1.
Officers wanted to arrest Michael Torres, who they said was wanted for aggravated motor vehicle theft. Police said they believed he was armed and dangerous.
When police tried to arrest Torres, he took off in his car and Sgt. Kevin Barnes fired his rifle three times, the district attorney’s office stated.
A background check on Torres did not find anything indicating he was wanted for aggravated motor vehicle theft and his family insisted he was innocent of the alleged crimes.
“The investigation demonstrated that Mr. Michael Torres was aware that the police were following him and made aggressive maneuvers with his vehicle to avoid apprehension,” the statement said.
“At the time Sergeant Barnes fired his weapon, he stated he was in fear for his life, the lives of his fellow officers and citizens.”
“The evidence does not support the filing of any criminal charges against Sergeant Barnes.”
Torres’ girlfriend, Stephanie Cervantes-Facio, was in the vehicle with him during the shooting. She said police rammed the back of the vehicle, sending it away from officers and into a ditch.
— Emily Allen FOX31 (@EmilyAReports) April 1, 2017
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.
Torres was seriously injured but survived.
According to the department’s use-of-force policy, officers can use physical force when making an arrest or in preventing an escape.
However, the department’s policy on firing a weapon states that “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.”
Criminal defense attorney Dan Recht said deadly force on someone who was wanted for aggravated motor vehicle theft is not “reasonable” or “appropriate.”
Shortly after the shooting, Aurora police chief Nick Metz said the sergeant 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 in April.