DENVER (KDVR) — After repeated requests, the Denver Police Department released the body camera video of an officer-involved shooting in Lower Downtown. On the heels of its release, Denver’s district attorney announced that a grand jury will decide if charges should be filed against the three officers who fired into a crowd leaving downtown bars last month.
FOX31’s legal analysts agree that the announcement of a grand jury is significant, saying it’s not unprecedented, but it is unusual. Certain members of the community will now have a say in what went down on July 17 in LoDo, determining if the officers’ actions were criminal.
Legal analysts share views on Denver police shooting video
Colorado criminal defense attorney and FOX31 legal analyst Chris Decker said it will likely come down to the moment seen in the video where Jordan Waddy tosses a gun. After that, officers are seen firing at the 21-year-old and the crowd runs for cover.
“I don’t see anywhere in that video where he was pointing the weapon at the officers,” Decker said.
After reviewing tens of thousands of body camera videos in his 28-year career, Decker calls this incident an overreaction by DPD officers.
“It looks like someone was trying to get rid of a gun and not brandish it or direct it directly at the police officers, but to get rid of it because that individual knew he was about to come into contact with police and didn’t want to be the young Black man in possession of a weapon,” Decker said. “And he gets shot because he throws it away from police officers.”
Along with Waddy, six bystanders were also hit that night by a bullet or shrapnel. However, former District Attorney George Brauchler said the body camera video paints a picture, but not a complete one.
“A camera does a great job of capturing one vantage point at one point in time, but what it cannot give you is the complete picture,” Brauchler told FOX31. “What it cannot tell you is what those officers were sensing leading up to that moment.”
Grand jury will investigate LoDo police shooting
The shooting stirred up the city and created controversy. Also on Tuesday, Denver District Attorney Beth McCann announced that a grand jury will decide whether the three officers who fired seven rounds, according to DPD, should face criminal charges.
“It’s not unprecedented, but I would say it’s unusual,” Brauchler said. “The DA decided to solicit the community’s input, but at the end of the day, what it should not be is an opportunity for a DA — in this case or any other — to avoid having to make the hard call on whether or not there was a crime.”
Brauchler added that typically a district attorney will make the decision. He said that in some states, it’s mandatory that all officer-involved shooting goes to a grand jury, but Colorado is not one of them.
In the July 17 LoDo shooting, power is now going to the community of Denver.
McCann released a statement that reads, “The public’s interest in this particular shooting incident is understandably high. For the community to trust in the outcome from this incident, it is important that independent members of the community review the facts, evidence and law regarding whether these officers should be criminally charged. Until the grand jury’s work is complete, my office will have no further comment on this matter.”
FOX31 confirmed that since McCann was sworn into office in 2017, she has never convened a grand jury to review an officer-involved shooting, so the LoDo incident would be the first time.
“I think this is at least an initial indication this may have been a bad shoot,” Decker said. “There may be criminal charges that result from this or not, but McCann is not sweeping this under the rug.”
A majority of the video released by DPD had no audio. Outside of the raw video, DPD put together a separate video explaining their perspective of the shooting. Decker said that’s not normal, and it was to get a narrative out with the release of the video.
The grand jury will not decide if officers are innocent or guilty; they’ll be deciding if charges should be filed against them.