AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — The Opportunity Center in Aurora hosted a joint press conference on Tuesday led by Denver clergy members, NAACP Denver, community activists and attorneys for the family of Brandon Lee Cole.
Cole’s attorneys said he was an unarmed Black father of three who was shot and killed by police on Aug. 5 while holding nothing but a magic marker. They said they are now asking for a joint call for changes to the Denver Police Department’s response to people in medical crises.
“Anything the department wants to say about we followed the rules, we followed protocol — then there’s something very imperfect about your protocol and your training if at the end of the day, an innocent unarmed black man was killed,” New Covenant Christian Church Pastor Reginald Holmes said.
The situation started as a domestic violence call when witnesses reported seeing an intoxicated man push his wife, who uses a wheelchair, and then assault his teenage son, according to police.
Police said they weren’t able to confirm this was a case of domestic violence, but the officers met with the suspect in the middle of the street.
Wife pleads for cops not to shoot husband
Denver police released body camera footage from that situation.
Video recorded by a male officer shows Cole standing in the street with a female officer standing behind him. The female officer can be heard on her bodycam saying that Cole is holding a knife.
The male officer pulls out his Taser as Cole approaches and then fires it as Cole moves toward the sidewalk, where the female officer has repositioned herself by two bystanders.
According to DPD, one of the probes from the Taser did not land, so the stun gun did not work. Cole continues onto the sidewalk and moves toward the female officer, who fires her gun twice at him.
Cole was taken to the hospital and later died.
Cole’s attorneys said his wife, Ebony, pleaded with police officers, “Don’t pull your gun on my husband,” which can be heard in the female officer’s bodycam footage.
Colorado State Patrol and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation are still looking into the shooting. Both officers in the case were placed on modified paid leave while the investigation continues.
Attorneys want change in how police respond to a medical crisis
Cole’s attorneys said that he suffered from epilepsy, which made it difficult for him to move his arms and legs.
“We can not train our way out of this. We need to fundamentally and systematically change the way that we define safety in our communities, and it is not with more police,” Dr. Lisa Calderón said.
She is proposing a new Office of Neighborhood Safety as an alternative to uniformed officers.
“We need people from our communities who know how to handle and recognize the signs and symptoms of mental distress,” she said.
Denver already has the STAR Program, which sends behavioral health clinicians and paramedics to mental health and substance abuse calls when safety is not a concern.
Since the call involving Cole came in as an assault, DPD says it required the response of patrol officers instead of the STAR team. DPD sent the following statement in response to the community’s calls for change.
The Denver Police Department remains committed to transparency and openness with the community regarding the death of Brandon Cole. A point of clarification is, officers responded to calls regarding an assault, not a person in crisis, which is why patrol officers responded and not the STAR team.
Procedurally, the review of this incident by the Denver District Attorney’s Office has not yet been completed. Once the DA completes its review, the involved officers’ conduct will be internally reviewed by the Denver Police Department and Use of Force Review Board to determine whether the officers’ actions were within policy – both reviews are standard practice. The Board will also have the opportunity to make recommendations concerning modifications to policy or training, if any, based upon their incident review. DPD is also open to community feedback and has previously met with Mr. Cole’s family and had conversations about this incident with representatives from the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance and NAACP Denver.Denver Police Department
FOX31’s Ashley Michels contributed to this report.