Denver District Attorney Beth McCann is requesting a grand jury investigation after three city police officers shot into a crowded area in lower downtown Denver last month, injuring six bystanders.
“The public’s interest in this particular shooting incident is understandably high,” McCann said in a statement Tuesday. “For the community to trust in the outcome from the incident, it is important that independent members of the community review the facts, evidence and law regarding whether these officers should be criminally charged.”
McCann’s announcement comes the same day as Denver police releasing the officers’ body camera footage and surveillance videos from the July 17 shooting, which shows three officers firing seven rounds at 21-year-old Jordan Waddy on a packed sidewalk near a Greek food truck and outside Larimer Beer Hall.
Footage shows Waddy walk from the street to the sidewalk, where he lifts his hands into the air, seconds before falling to the ground. After police shoot Waddy, dozens of people scatter to the adjacent parking lot and street. Some fall and start to crawl across the sidewalk trying to seek cover behind the food truck and others appear to be trampled.
Denver Police Department are “deeply concerned” that six people were injured by rounds fired by police, Cmdr. Matt Clark said in a video detailing the shooting Tuesday.
Clark said the officers, who were assigned to control the crowd in the area, first saw Waddy fighting outside the beer hall at 20th and Larimer streets and what appeared to be a gun in his hoodie jacket or waistband. The officers confronted Waddy while he was on the street, ordering him to show his hands.
Waddy initially put his hands up, but then ignored the officers and retreated to the crowded sidewalk toward the food truck and pulled a gun from his jacket with his left hand, footage shows. Officers Megan Lieberson and Kenneth Rowland, who were facing perpendicular to the beer hall and standing on the sidewalk, fired a combined six rounds at Waddy. A third officer, Brandon Ramos, followed Waddy around a parked vehicle and fired one round at Waddy from the sidewalk when he saw the 21-year-old’s gun pointed toward the officers on Larimer Street, Clark said in the video.
Ramos was aware of the people standing behind Waddy in front of the beer hall, Clark said. The officers later found on Waddy a Black Rock Island semi-automatic 10 mm handgun, loaded with one round in the chamber and seven in the magazine, Clark said. The hammer was cocked back, but police found no evidence that he fired his gun.
All three officers were hired by the department in 2019. Waddy’s injuries were not life threatening, Clark said during a news conference last month.
Attorney Siddhartha Rathod, who is representing three bystanders injured in the shooting, commended the grand jury investigation but said it would not be enough to bring justice to the victims. He called for the officers’ indictments.
“The footage demonstrates what we already knew to be true — Denver officers acted with extreme recklessness, intentionally firing live rounds toward a dense crowd,” Rathod said in a statement Tuesday.
“These videos are yet another sickening example of Denver police officers exercising excessive, lethal force without justification or concern for the safety of innocent bystanders. It is a miracle that more bystanders were not injured and that nobody was killed.”
Two of the bystanders did not find out that police shot them until they read the news the next day.
Yekalo Weldehiwet, 26, was in downtown Denver with his fiancee, celebrating her brother’s birthday, when police shot him in his arm. Doctors successfully removed the bullet that went through his biceps and shattered his humerus bone, his attorney said.
A bullet also went through 24-year-old Bailey Alexander’s back before exiting through her arm.
Rathod also is representing Willis Small IV, who was near the Larimer Beer Hall when police began shooting. He went to the hospital after a bullet or a fragment of a bullet pierced his left foot through his shoe, Rathod said.
A grand jury will decide whether the officers’ actions were in compliance with the law, Clark said. Then, a sergeant with police internal affairs will present the incident to a use of force review board made up of community members, DPD command officers and a member of another Colorado law enforcement agency.
If the use of force board and police chief determine that the officers violated department policy, the case will be investigated by internal affairs officers and sent to the Conduct Review Bureau to determine which policies were violated, before it is presented to the department’s executive director of safety who may decide potential disciplinary action.
The use of force board can also determine if more training is needed or if policies and tactics within the department need to be modified.