DENVER — Six more Colorado law enforcement officers have been charged in connection with the fatal shooting of a 22-year-old man suffering a mental health crisis last year — bringing the total number of officers prosecuted to eight in an incident that became an example for critics of what’s wrong with how police handle such calls.
The latest charges announced Friday 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 a former sheriff’s deputy, Andrew Buen, who ultimately shot Christian Glass after a standoff. 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.
The head of the Colorado State Patrol, Col. Matthew C. Packard, said he was “shocked” by the decision to charge one of his troopers, Ryan Bennie. In a statement, Packard said there was no indication that Bennie had violated any of the patrol’s training or policies.
“This incident was a tragedy, and those responsible for his death should be held accountable as an important first step in regaining the public’s trust,” Packard said.
Telephone messages and emails sent to the other officers charged or their agencies were not immediately 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.
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 on June 11, 2022.
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.
An attorney representing Glass’ parents, who obtained a $19 million settlement, praised her decision.
“If any of these six officers would have spoken up, Christian would be alive today,” Siddhartha Rathod said.
The charging documents do not detail exactly what the six officers failed to do. However, court documents in Buen’s and Gould’s cases have 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, the indictment said.
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.