A Colorado family is calling for an independent investigation into the death of their son, De’Von Bailey, 19, who was fatally shot in the back while running from police. Graphic body camera footage shows Colorado Springs Police Department Sergeant Alan Van’t Land and Officer Blake Evenson firing their guns as Bailey flees. The officers said they fired thinking Bailey was reaching for a gun.
On August 3, Bailey and his cousin, Lawrence Stoker, 19, were stopped by the officers, who were investigating an armed robbery. Bailey and Stoker matched a description given by the victim. Footage from Van’t Land’s camera shows him stopping and speaking with the teens. “Hey guys, can I talk to you a sec?” he asked.
Van’t Land told Bailey and Stoker to keep their hands out of their pockets, then explained that he and his partner were investigating a possible assault. “Oh, I didn’t touch him,” Bailey responded.
After telling the teens they’d be searched for weapons, Bailey ran off. The officers pursued him and fired. Bailey can be seen falling to the ground, bleeding from his back, and is heard moaning as the officers handcuff him. “Let’s check him for weapons, quick,” one officer said as Bailey was lying face-down in street.
The officers notice something protruding from Bailey’s shorts. “He’s got a fucking gun,” Van’t Land said. The officers tugged at Bailey’s shorts to pull them off and retrieve a possible weapon. Video shows them cutting his pants off on the pavement as Bailey continues to moan.
“Stay with me brother,” one officer says to Bailey. The officers then begin to administer first aid. Bailey later died in the hospital.
“The police appear to argue that they shot Mr. Bailey because they fear he was going for a gun,” Bailey family attorney Darold Killmer said at an August 14 news conference. He refuted that claim, saying that Bailey was “doing everything in his power,” to run away.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. De’Von Bailey Was Questioned About an Armed Robbery
The shooting occurred just after 6:45 p.m. when a 911 dispatcher received a call about an armed robbery at the intersection of Doniphan Drive and Fountain Boulevard in Colorado Springs.
The victim reported that he’d been approached by two African-American males, and one was holding a gun that he described as a Glock 23. One asked, “What’s in your pockets?” When the victim responded “nothing,” he said one of the assailants started hitting him and he fell to the ground. The men took the victim’s wallet and some money.
The victim described the suspects and said, “I kind of have history with them, so I know where they live.” He described them as two black males. One was skinny with a mustache and a light afro and went by the nickname “Spazz.”
The victim told the dispatcher the second suspect’s name was Lawrence and he was “kind of overweight.” He said both claimed to have guns but only “Spazz” showed a weapon during the robbery.
2. Bailey’s Autopsy Report Determined He Had Three Gunshot Wounds in His Back
Bailey’s autopsy was conducted by Dr. Daniel Lingamfelter on August 5, two days after the shooting. The cause of death was reported as a homicide.
The autopsy report noted that Bailey was shot four times. Three bullets struck Bailey in the lower left back and another hit him in the right arm.
The report determined that Bailey died from wounds that perforated his heart, left lung, diaphragm, and penetrated the spleen. The injuries resulted in “massive blood loss and his subsequent death.”
The three bullets that entered Bailey’s back were recovered. There was an entry and an exit wound on Bailey’s arm were by his elbow.
Other injuries were noted on the report including a contusion above the right eyebrow, an abrasion to the front left knee and abrasions on the left knee.
3. Bailey’s Family Said This Is Not a “Black Lives Matter” Issue
Family members stressed that even though the officer who fired the fatal shots is white, their concern is that Bailey was shot in the back.
“I don’t want to make this about ‘Black Lives Matter’ or anything, because all of our lives matter,” Greg Bailey, De’Von’s father said. “I know everyone says that my son was killed by a white cop, and he’s a Black man in the community.”
“Yes, those are facts, but that’s not what this is about. This is (about) what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong,” the older Bailey added. “And what’s wrong is that my son was shot in the back by law enforcement,” he added
Bailey went on to say that the family wants justice for “what was wrongfully done.”
4. Investigators Will Determine How Colorado’s “Deadly Force” Laws Are Interpreted
Deadly Force incidents in Colorado Springs are investigated by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and the Colorado Springs Police Department, depending on where the location of the incident. The investigation into Bailey’s death will hinge on how Colorado’s “deadly force” their investigation and how Colorado’s “Deadly Force” laws are interpreted by the district attorney.
Colorado statute 18-1-707 (1) (I) says police are justified to use deadly force on a person if he or she, “has committed or attempted to commit a felony involving the use or threatened use of a deadly weapon.”
Colorado statute 18-1-707 (1)(a) says it is justified if it is “to effect an arrest or to prevent the escape from custody of an arrested person…”
The office of District Attorney Dan May has posted a 2015 memorandum regarding their policy on addressing police shootings and the steps that agencies need to follow when a Deadly Force incident occurs.
The memo states that the office will ensure a “neutral, impartial and thorough” investigation into all Deadly Force incidents. It outlines proper procedures for notifying various agencies, steps for conducting an investigation and placing individuals involved on administrative leave. It also mentions situations that do not constitute Deadly Force, such as accidentally discharging a gun.
5. The Bailey Family Attorney Said Current Investigation Protocols are “Fraught with Conflicts of Interest”
The Bailey family and Killmer have called for an independent investigation into the shooting, calling the current protocols “fraught with conflicts of interest.” Killmer was skeptical that the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office could conduct an impartial investigation, alleging that the Sheriff’s office and the Colorado Springs police department have a cozy relationship.“You hand off the investigation to your friends and things come out ok,” he said.
Killmer is asking that the investigation be turned over to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and then the State Attorney General’s Office should determine if charges should be filed against the officers. “Only in this way can the community have confidence that this has been a fair investigation,” Killmer said
Killmer stated that a 1985 Supreme Court ruling curbed the use of excessive force when attempting to catch a suspect. “Police don’t have an unlimited right to use their guns to apprehend people,” he said. He also compared Bailey’s shooting to that of Dayton killer Connor Betts, noting that police fired at Betts to protect members of the public who were in danger as he went on a rampage, while Bailey fled from police and never displayed a weapon.