Accompanying a $19 million check to the parents of a 22-year-old who was killed by a Clear Creek County sheriff’s deputy last summer is a handful of new policy agreements, promises of more training and apologies from law enforcement that are almost unheard of in cases like this.
To Simon and Sally Glass, whose son Christian died last summer in the front seat of his car after refusing to get out when officers asked him to, clearing the record about what happened to him was important.
“They should have helped him but they killed him,” said Sally Glass on Tuesday in interviews with reporters after details of the settlement were released by attorneys.
The Glass family also hopes their son’s untimely death spurs agencies to not just apologize — but to reform. As of Tuesday afternoon, three of the four agencies on scene that night have issued written apologies and statements retracting their initial press releases about what happened.
“The events that transpired the night … that ended in Christian’s death continue to be disturbing,” Clear Creek County Sheriff Rick Albers said, in a statement. “The initial press release did not give an accurate description of what occurred.”
Simon Glass said he believes everyone needs to know that the officers that night let other police down.
“By doing what they did, they contributed to the feeling that the police don’t serve us, they don’t serve and protect. We don’t trust them,” Simon Glass said. “We wanted to see some realization from them of the impact of our family and beyond that.”
The Glass parents will encourage active bystander training
This week, three law enforcement agencies and the state agreed to the biggest known monetary settlement in the state’s history.
The state hasn’t issued a written apology for its role — both Colorado State Patrol and the Division of Gaming had officers on the scene and will pay $3 million of the $19 million settlement. Gov. Jared Polis has condemned the killing and plans a ceremony of life with Glass’s family Wednesday.
In addition, Clear Creek County will dedicate a public park in Glass’ name.
Simon and Sally will talk to new sheriff’s deputy recruits and the state will develop a virtual reality training program reflecting Glass’ death with focus on de-escalation. Glass’ parents will also record a video to be played to new officers about how important it is to intervene when an officer is committing wrongdoing.
“They already had a scared boy there because he was in the middle of nowhere in the pitch dark, and instead of realizing they have a scared boy in front of them, they were so aggressive. They swore at him, they treated him incredibly badly. You wouldn’t even treat an animal like that,” Sally Glass said. “No kind, normal human being would behave like that.”
The Glass family said that the active bystander training is important to try and prevent deaths like their son’s in the future. At one time, there were roughly a dozen officers from five different agencies there to assist Clear Creek County’s lead on trying to get Glass out of his own vehicle. Colorado has a relatively new law that requires officers to intervene in another officer’s conduct if they see wrongdoing.
“They tortured him and they killed him,” Sally Glass said. “The training has to talk about that duty. If any of them had spoken up and followed their legal duty to intervene.”
She said she looks forward to speaking to new recruits about what happened.
“It’ll be about Christian and what he faced and this is the victim of your crime and to look at us and know the damage and the hurt and the heartache and the young life you ripped away,” she said. “You don’t get to hide from that.”
'It’s very unhappy money, it’s sad money'
Regarding the public park, Glass’ parents say it’s difficult for them to go to Clear Creek County because that’s where Christian died. They are from Boulder. But they say having a park there to remember him will be a reminder to everyone what happened and to keep working on change.
“Clear Creek County is a beautiful county with huge amounts of really lovely people, hardworking business owners, people who live there and, you know, that’s their police force,” Sally Glass said. “When we talk about the appalling behavior of the Clear Creek County, we’re talking about the police. I want to support that community where it happened.”
With the money, Glass’ parents are still trying to decide what to do with it. They say the amount was important to them, not for the actual money itself, because the biggest known settlement in state history sends a message to law enforcement.
“We think of it as Christian’s money because he was murdered. So it’s very unhappy money, it’s sad money,” Sally Glass said. “And we want to turn that money into something that will do good. So sort of bad money into good money.”
They eventually hope to start a foundation to help young people in some way — but they’re still figuring out the details.
Despite closure on one part of this story, the Glass family said they continue to struggle with the grueling what-ifs from that evening. Sally Glass said she wishes Christian would have just called a tow truck or AAA because they have it on their car insurance policies.
“He was just so unlucky that night, that poor boy,” she said. “If he had been in a different county with crisis response units who could help with a kid who was really scared … I don’t even know if he knew where he was. It was so late. He was just so unlucky.”
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