Grand jury declines to indict in August shooting

By Pam Zubeck
Special to the Southeast Express

A grand jury has returned “no true bill” in the officer-involved shooting death of 19-year-old De’Von Bailey, meaning the Colorado Springs Police Department officers won’t be charged with crimes.

To arrive at a decision to clear officers, grand jurors must find that officers reasonably believed it was necessary to defend themselves or others from what they saw as an imminent use of deadly force. Or, they believed lethal force was needed to effect an arrest or prevent the escape from custody by a person they believed had committed or had attempted to commit a felony using force or threat of force with a deadly weapon. Officers also are justified in using lethal force if a suspect is attempting to escape using a deadly weapon or is likely to endanger human life unless apprehended without delay.

Courtesy Photo/Colorado Springs Police Department

The finding led Police Chief Vince Niski to issue a letter to the community, which said, in part:

There is no doubt that the community of Colorado Springs has been tested over the last few months. What happened on August 3, 2019, is something neither police officers nor citizens ever want to experience. The loss of a son, a friend, a community member, is a devastating event that impacts all of us.

Please know that our officers and I do not take our responsibilities to our citizens lightly. It is our duty to serve everyone in our community with integrity, humility, and excellence.

“The family is very disappointed,” Maury Newman, the lawyer for the Bailey family told KKTV Channel 11 News following the release of the grand jury’s finding. “It’s no surprise, it’s the exact result you can expect when a tainted investigation is presented by a biased prosecutor. This is precisely the reason we have been calling for an independent investigation and an independent prosecutor from the very beginning.”

It’s not clear what comes next. The Bailey family could file a lawsuit alleging wrongful death.

The shooting spurred protests from the southeast Colorado Springs area where it occurred, with Bailey’s family and friends alleging racism played a role and demanding an independent investigation. (An analysis of nearly 20 years of officer-involved shootings in the Pikes Peak region conducted by our sister paper, the Colorado Springs Indy, largely discredited the institutional racism argument.)

Bailey’s supporters contend the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, which investigated the incident under state law requirements, couldn’t be unbiased toward the CSPD because Undersheriff Pete Carey used to be CSPD chief and other personnel have crossed over between the departments.

Even Gov. Jared Polis urged an outside look, though Mayor John Suthers accused the governor of politicking with the case and expressed support for the traditional procedure, which places the case in the district attorney’s hands unless it’s handed off to a grand jury.

Protestors embrace on the steps of Colorado Springs City Hall  in this Aug. 5 photo.  [Express photo/file]

On Oct. 4, DA Dan May referred the Bailey case to a grand jury, which meets in secret, meaning the public can’t know what evidence was presented that led to the decision to clear the officers, Sgt. Alan Van’t Land and Officer Blake Evenson.

Protesters also questioned why the officers were allowed to return to duty three days after the shooting, which is explained in the Indy‘s follow up story regarding psychological impacts on police officers.

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Chief Niski’s letter to the community:

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