Clear Creek County sheriff plans to create a crisis response team after fatal Christian Glass shooting

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A vigil for Christian Glass on Wednesday evening, Sept. 20, 2022, in Idaho Springs. He called 911 for help from his stranded vehicle in Silver Plume in June 2022. Clear Creek County deputies responded to his call, and in a moment captured by officers’ body cameras, one deputy shot and killed the 22-year old man

The Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office will develop a crisis response team after a county deputy killed a 22-year-old man in June who was having mental health problems.

Clear Creek County Sheriff Rick Albers issued a statement Wednesday saying he was going to develop a crisis response team for the county out of “respect for our community.” 

“This incident has been a tragedy for everyone,” Albers said, in his first public statements since the June shooting death of Christian Glass, who called 911 for help when he got his car stuck on a mountain road. “My office will continue to cooperate in any way that we can.”

In June, Glass told a 911 operator that he was stuck and scared and needed help getting his car out. When officers arrived, they demanded that he get out of the car. He said he didn’t feel safe, but he offered to throw some geology equipment, two knives and a rubber mallet, out of the car window. Officers declined. 

More than an hour later, after officers broke his car windows, tased him and shot him with a bean bag gun. He was shot and killed holding one of his geology knives in his hand. 

Gov. Jared Polis told Colorado Matters last week that he wants to create co-responder crisis teams throughout the state.

“It’s not always a law enforcement officer that is the best response on the scene,” Polis said. “It’s often simply somebody with that mental health training and support to be able to, to bring that situation under control.”

More coverage of the Clear Creek County deputies' shooting

Nearby counties to Clear Creek, Boulder, Jefferson and Summit, have some sort of crisis teams or co-response teams in place. Summit’s mental health crisis team runs 24-7, while the Jefferson County team doesn’t have staff all night.

Crisis teams are specially trained to either respond to 911 calls without law enforcement or respond to non-criminal incidents with officers and help assist people who may be having mental health problems.

In 2020, a grand jury recommended the Clear Creek County sheriff’s office form a mental health team to help respond to incidents. That was after another officer shooting in the county in which a man, acting disturbed, was shot and killed. He was armed with a gun at the time, and the grand jury ruled the shooting was legally justified.

“In the near term, the Grand Jury recommends to local governments in Clear Creek County that they identify mental health resources, whether in or outside the county, that can be immediately made available to law enforcement to assist those individuals in mental health crisis,” the ruling said.

No officer responding to the Glass incident in June called any mental health counselor for help, even though Glass was acting paranoid during his call to the 911 dispatcher and told officers he was terrified.

Clear Creek County Undersheriff Bruce Snelling told CPR News that the deputy who killed Glass feared he was going to stab the Georgetown police marshal, who was on one side of the car during the incident. Snelling has since died of natural causes.

Glass’s parents, who live in Boulder County, intend to sue Clear Creek County. Polis called the incident a tragedy and said that, “Colorado mourns for the loss of Christian Glass’ life.” 

The Clear Creek County commissioners issued condolences to the family and loved ones called his death “heartbreaking” and the “circumstances surrounding his death deeply troubling.”

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation is investigating the incident and Clear Creek County District Attorney Heidi McCollum will likely send the case to a grand jury to determine whether criminal charges should be filed against Deputy Andrew Buen, who fired the shots that killed Glass, or any of the other officers on the scene.