Denver DA concludes officer-involved shooting of William Debose was justified

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DENVER (KDVR) — Denver District Attorney Beth McCann determined on Thursday that the officer-involved shooting of William Debose on May 1 was legally justified. No criminal charges will be brought against Denver Police Department Officer Ethan Antonson.

Protests were already scheduled at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday awaiting the announcement from McCann.

“I had hoped to extend my deepest sympathy to the family of Mr. William Lamont Debose for the loss of their beloved son and husband and communicate my decision to them privately before announcing publicly,” said Denver DA Beth McCann.

“However, they have declined that meeting so today I am announcing that based on the Colorado law related to when peace officers are legally justified in using deadly physical force, my decision is that no criminal charges are warranted against Denver Police Corporal Ethan Antonson as explained in my letter to Denver Police Chief Pazen.”

Debose was being pursued on foot by Denver Police officers after they spotted a car driving erratically on the highway, involved DPD air unit to follow the suspect car and located it on the 3200 block of West Colfax Avenue.

“Officers responded up here to attempt contact with the car. They spotted one of the occupants of the car took off running. During the foot pursuit, one officer discharged his weapon,” DPD Division Chief of Investigations Joseph Montoya said at the scene on May 1.

DPD reported Debose had pulled a handgun from his waistband during the foot pursuit.

DPD released body cam footage and screenshots from the footage for DA McCann’s legal review. The video shows Debose running away from officers; they tell him ‘on the ground’.

Photo credit Denver Police Department body cam screenshot

McCann’s announcement comes days after she released a statement in response to protests demanding a review of Debose’s death.

“The horrific killing of George Floyd at the hands of police officers has spurred increased calls for justice and close examination of law enforcement and systemic racism in our criminal justice system. I support these efforts and will hold police officers accountable for any criminal actions as I have done in the past and am doing currently (we have a pending case against a former Lakewood police officer.) I have and will continue to support Black Lives Matter and I recognize the immediate need to examine police practices as well as prosecution and judicial practices,” McCann said.

“However, in this case, Corporal Antonson had a reasonable belief that he was defending himself from the imminent use of deadly physical force and Colorado law allows peace officers to use deadly physical force under these circumstances.”

McCann is holding a community meeting to discuss her conclusions via Microsoft Teams on Wednesday, June 24, from 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. The public is invited to join that meeting.

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