By COLLEEN SLEVIN
DENVER (AP) — Six more Colorado law enforcement officers were charged Friday in connection with the fatal shooting of a 22-year-old man suffering a mental health crisis last year that became an example for critics of what’s wrong with how police handle such calls.
The latest charges bring the total number of officers prosecuted to eight. They were filed against the remaining officers from various agencies who were at the scene and who prosecutors say did not intervene to stop the actions of former sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Buen, who ultimately shot Christian Glass after a standoff on June 11, 2022.
They are each charged with one count of failing to intervene to prevent or stop a fellow police officer from using excessive physical force, a misdemeanor created by state lawmakers in 2020 following the killing of George Floyd.
Glass parents’, Sally and Simon Glass, had long pushed for the other officers to also be prosecuted. Their relief at finally seeing that happen was undercut by anger at some of the agencies that criticized the decision to prosecute their officers just months after they issued apologies to the couple and promised improvements to their training as part of a $19 million settlement.
As part of the deal, the agencies acknowledged that the initial statement about the shooting was inaccurate for suggesting that Christian Glass as being responsible for his death.
“It’s not that they didn’t do anything wrong. That’s the point. They didn’t do anything,” Sally Glass said at a press conference standing next to her husband and lawyers.
The head of the Colorado State Patrol, Col. Matthew C. Packard, said he was “shocked” by the decision to charge state trooper Ryan Bennie, saying there was no indication he had violated any of the patrol’s training or policies.
Idaho Springs police Chief Nick Buseck said the charges were applied “in a blanket manner” to the six officers. He pointed out that the grand jury indictment of the original two officers charged in the case noted that Idaho Springs Officer Brittany Morrow spoke with Glass in a “helpful and understanding manner,” trying to understand what was wrong and coax him out of the vehicle, before she was posted to a perimeter location at the scene. Despite being charged, Morrow would remain on patrol, he said.
Telephone messages and emails sent to the other officers charged or their agencies were not returned. No lawyers were listed as representing them in court records yet.
Georgetown Marshal Randy Williams, who used a Taser on Glass according to court documents, was also charged with third-degree assault, which is also a misdemeanor, in addition to failing to intervene.
The others charged for failing to intervene are Georgetown police Officer Timothy Collins, state gaming division Officers Christa Lloyd and Mary J. Harris.
Buen and his supervisor, former Sgt. Kyle Gould, were indicted on more serious charges nearly a year ago after a grand jury found they needlessly escalated the standoff, leading to the shooting after Glass called for help when his SUV got stuck .
Gould, who had been indicted on charges of criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment, pleaded guilty to failing to intervene on Thursday after negotiating a plea agreement with prosecutors. Buen has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder, official misconduct, and reckless endangerment.
Fifth District Attorney Heidi McCollum said she and her prosecutors had discussed bringing the duty to intervene charges against the other officers for some time because she said everyone who was at the scene bears a portion of the responsibility for Glass’ death. She said now was the right time to bring the charges since Gould’s case has been resolved and Buen’s is now headed to trial.
“I am aware that this might not be a popular decision. But at the end of the day my job is not to do what is popular. My job is to follow the law and this is a decision that I stand behind,” McCollum said.
The charging documents do not detail exactly what the six officers failed to do. However, the grand jury indictments stressed that the situation escalated after the decision was made to forcibly remove Glass from his vehicle even though he was not suspected of committing any crimes.
Gould was not at the scene himself but talked to Buen by phone and watched what was happening using live body camera footage, according to his indictment. Prosecutors alleged Gould gave permission for Buen to remove Glass from the vehicle.
Glass called for help after his SUV became stuck on a dirt road in the mountain town of Silver Plume, telling a dispatcher he was being followed and making other statements that the indictment said showed he was paranoid, hallucinating or delusional and experiencing a mental health crisis.
He refused to get out of the vehicle after law enforcement officers from several agencies arrived. After roughly an hour of negotiations, officers decided to breach the car even though there was no indication that Glass posed a danger or was suspected of a crime, according to the indictment.
Once the window was smashed, body camera footage shows officers peppering Glass with bean bag rounds, then Buen and Williams tasing him. Glass brandished a knife in “a state of complete panic and self-defense” before twisting in his seat to thrust a knife in an officer’s direction, according to the indictment. Buen then fired his gun five times at Glass.
The grand jury found that at no point was the other officer in “imminent danger of being stabbed by Mr. Glass.”
Gould was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay the maximum $1,000 fine after negotiating a plea agreement with prosecutors. He is prohibited from working as a law enforcement officer again.
A conviction of failing to intervene carries a sentence of up to 364 days in jail.