Denver DA answers questions on decision not to file charges in William Debose shooting

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Denver District Attorney Beth McCann took questions from the public Wednesday night regarding her decision not to file charges against the officer involved in the shooting death of William Debose. 

McCann announced the decision last week, saying under state law, the officer’s actions were justified and she believes he was acting in self-defense.

McCann’s office released body camera video of the night Debose died. Around 10:20 p.m., the Denver Police Department helicopter spotted a vehicle speeding southbound on Interstate 25. That vehicle ended up in a parking lot off West Colfax Avenue minutes later. McCann says Debose and a passenger got out of the vehicle in the parking lot. She says the video shows Debose put his hands up but then took off running. The officer on scene chased Debose and seconds later, shots were fired. 

McCann says the body camera video shows Debose reach across his body for a gun and point it toward the officer. The officer fired four shots, two of which struck the 21-year-old. He died later that night. 

“The horrific killing of George Floyd has really brought to the surface the immediate need to examine and discuss police practices in our country, including prosecution and the justice system as a whole,” said McCann at the start of the meeting.

McCann said she spent a huge amount of time and thoughtful review while making the decision.

Some questioned the quality of the body camera footage and what it shows. McCann said because the officer was moving at the time, the video is blurry. It was also dark at the time of the shooting. 

McCann also answered a question regarding the officer and whether he’s been involved in previous shootings.

“Not to my knowledge and we did ask the Denver Police Department to give us his records. It’s possible he was a witness to a shooting but he was not involved where he was the shooter,” said McCann.

An autopsy report shows Debose died from a gunshot wound to the upper-right chest. He was also shot in the left thigh. The trajectory of that gunshot wound is described as “left to right, slightly back to front, and upward.” McCann says they do not know which gunshot wound came first.

“The fact that we know it was in the left thigh, it could have happened after the chest wound happened as Mr. Debose twisted around so that his left side was more facing the officer. But we don’t know which one came first,” said McCann.

McCann said during the meeting she supports the Black Lives Matter movement and is committed to improving the system.

“I hear you and I have heard you about your concerns about police behavior and the criminal justice system and the impact that it has on communities of color,” said McCann.

McCann says all information in the Debose case is now available for the public to view by making an appointment with the district attorney’s office.

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