Clear Creek County Undersheriff Bruce Snelling said on Thursday that the reason Deputy Andrew Buen used deadly force on Christian Glass was because he was afraid Glass was going to stab the Georgetown Police marshal out of the broken car window.
Snelling said in an interview with CPR News that Buen believed Glass posed a danger to officers by refusing to drop his knife after being asked 35 times to do so during a confrontation in June 2022.
The incident ended with Glass, a 22-year-old Boulder resident, being shot and killed after he called 911 for help.
Polis condemns the killing, which has drawn international attention
Meanwhile, Gov. Jared Polis took an extraordinary step in condemning the killing. He issued a statement about the incident late Thursday after he met with Glass’ parents.
“The unspeakable loss and grief Sally and Simon Glass are living is the worst nightmare of every parent,” he said. “This tragedy should never have happened. Colorado mourns for the loss of Christian Glass’s life.”
The incident has drawn international attention to Colorado from as far away as New Zealand where Glass’ father is originally from.
The massive public interest was generated when the Glass family’s lawyers Qusair Mohamedbhai and Siddhartha Rathod released hours of various body-worn cameras from officers on the scene this week.
“Police cannot create their own exigent circumstances,” Rathod said. “Police may not illegally smash out the windows of a person’s car who has committed no crime as the Colorado State Patrol said that night and then create their own circumstances that they believe justifies killing a 22-year-old boy. This is basic law enforcement. This is not complicated. And every police officer is taught this.”
More coverage of the Clear Creek County deputies' shooting
- After getting stuck on a dirt road in Clear Creek County in June, Christian Glass called 911 for help. Instead, the 22-year-old was killed while locked inside his own car after a long, tense, confusing and chaotic confrontation.
- The parents of Christian Glass that the fact the deputy who killed their son is back on the streets without any consequence is a stain on Colorado and a threat to everyone in the state.
- A Clear Creek undersheriff said the deputy who fatally shot Christian Glass was afraid he was going to stab a law enforcement officer out of the broken car window. Gov. Jared Polis has condemned the killing.
- PHOTOS: Christian Glass's family and about 30 community members gathered for a candlelight vigil in Idaho Springs.
- The New Zealand and British governments are asking for answers in the Clear Creek County investigation into the killing.
- The Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office will develop a crisis response team, groups that are specially trained to help assist people who may be having mental health problems.
Glass’ parents said they were frustrated at how slow the investigation is going into whether Deputy Buen’s use of lethal force was legally justified and have decided to speak publicly about the incident and their son.
“No one seems to know what to do here, but I can tell you what I’m looking for, it’s justice,” said Simon Glass, Christian’s father. “The people involved in this crime must be held accountable for our family and for the peace of mind of hundreds of thousands of parents in Colorado.”
Clear Creek County District Attorney Heidi McCollum is weighing whether to send the evidence to a grand jury, which could decide to file criminal charges against the officer. McCollum said she will make a decision when she receives all the investigatory documents from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which is the independent agency investigating Glass’ death.
What happened that night
Glass called 911 late on the night of June 10 after his Honda Pilot was stuck on a mountain road near Silver Plume.
Glass sounded paranoid as he told the dispatcher what happened. He mentioned that a trap in a bush may have been why his car got stuck. He also said that he was scared and needed help getting out of the area.
The dispatcher asked whether he had weapons on him, and he said had some rock tools he bought on a recent trip to Utah. That included two knives, a hammer and a rubber mallet. Glass told the dispatcher he would throw them out of the car as soon as deputies arrived.
When Buen arrived, he asked Glass to get out of the car, and Glass declined, saying he was scared and the only way he could feel safe was by staying inside with the doors locked and the windows rolled up.
Glass offered to throw the weapons out of the window, and Buen told him not to touch them and that he wanted him to get out of the car.
Buen threatened to pull him out of the car and also to break the glass in the windows of the car.
Intermittently, Glass picked up the knife in the passenger seat and would set it back down when officers were issuing demands. Snelling said the officers offered beef jerky and cigarettes and soda to try and coax Glass out of the car without force. None of it worked.
Officials said deputies asked Glass 165 times to do various things, from getting out of the car to dropping his knife, to no avail.
Eventually, officers broke one of the windows of his car with a baton and then used non-lethal force on Glass, including a bean bag gun and a taser, which broke another car window. Afterward, Glass was screaming and thrashing back and forth in the car with a knife in his hands. Officers, again, ordered him to drop it.
Body camera footage shows Glass, who had been tased from two different directions by two different officers, reaching through the broken window toward Georgetown Police Marshal Randy Williams. It is unclear whether his hand had a knife in it, though.
Sheriff’s officials said Buen perceived that as a direct threat and decided to use deadly force.
What has happened since the confrontation, and since the body camera footage was released
Since the widespread attention and the release of the body camera footage, the sheriff’s department and Clear Creek County dispatchers have been receiving death threats against themselves and their families for the past three days, Snelling said, noting the agency has a security process in place.
Deputy Buen returned to duty on July 13, 2022, and is currently on patrol.
On the night of the incident, Colorado Bureau of Investigation officers arrived on the scene within an hour, said spokeswoman Susan Medina. CBI investigates deadly force incidents for Clear Creek County.
Body camera footage shows Clear Creek Sheriff’s Sgt. Kyle Gould arrived on the scene shortly after Glass was killed and muted his body camera for “personal” conversations with the officers who were there. Body cameras will be required for all of the state’s law enforcement officers next year.
Snelling said it is standard administrative procedure for a supervisor to arrive on a scene and talk to officers about how they are doing and whether anyone is injured or needs help. He called that allowable under the state’s law. The Peace Officers Standard and Training board doesn’t have any guidance on when body cameras should be on or off or muted.
State law states that a peace officer may turn off a body camera in “administrative, tactical and management” discussions when civilians are not present.
In this case, at that moment, the only civilian there was deceased.
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