Gov. Jared Polis apologizes to family of Christian Glass for ‘unspeakable’ killing by law enforcement

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Sally Glass, center, and her daughters Katie Glass, 19, at left, and Anna Glass, 21, right during a vigil for her son and their brother Christian Glass, Tuesday evening, Sept. 20, 2022, in Idaho Springs. Glass was in his stranded car, from which he had called 911 for help, when he was fatally shot by a Clear Creek County deputy in June.

Gov. Jared Polis publicly apologized to the parents of Christian Glass on Wednesday for the role state law enforcement agents played in the 22-year-old’s death last June. 

In somber remarks from the State Capitol, which were streamed online, Polis called Glass’ death an “unspeakable loss and tragedy” and said that a Clear Creek County Sheriff’s deputy shot him unnecessarily while responding to a 911 call Glass made the night of June 11. 

“He was taken from us far too soon,” Polis said. 

The governor’s comments came a day after Glass’ parents agreed to a historic $19 million settlement with law enforcement agencies involved in his death. Along with the money, a portion of which will go to the attorneys, several agencies involved have pledged a number of reforms and mental health training initiatives. 

As he spoke Wednesday, Polis was flanked by Glass’ parents, Sally and Simon Glass, along with two pieces of Christian’s artwork. Glass was a talented artist, Polis said, and the state will install his work in the governor’s office. 

“I know visitors from across the state will gain a glimpse of the special person that Christian was,” Polis said. 

Polis also read a special proclamation marking May 24, 2023, as Christian Glass Day. Glass’ parents said the gesture was meaningful.

“We don’t want it to be swept under the carpet,” said Sally Glass. “We don’t want him to be forgotten.” 

As of Wednesday, at least three of the four agencies present on June 11 have issued written apologies and statements retracting their initial press releases about what happened.

The $19 million settlement will be paid by three different law enforcement agencies and the state, reflecting the large number of officers on scene the night Glass was killed: $10 million will come from Clear Creek, whose former deputy Andrew Buen, shot and killed Glass; $5 million from Georgetown, whose police marshal was on the scene that night; $3 million from the state, who had officers on the scene from Colorado State Patrol and the Division of Gaming; and $1 million from Idaho Springs.

Clear Creek County will also 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 a focus on de-escalation. Glass’ parents will also record a video to be played for 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.”

Clear Creek County District Attorney Heidi McCollum brought the case to a county grand jury, which issued an indictment last November against Buen, the deputy who shot and killed Glass, and his direct supervisor, Sgt. Kyle Gould, who approved breaking into Glass’ vehicle.

That indictment said Glass didn’t put anyone in danger — not the law enforcement officers on scene and not the general public. 

Buen faces second-degree murder and reckless endangerment charges in Glass’s death. Gould faces criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment charges. 

Both were fired by the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office. Their trials could come later this year, but there is no set timetable yet. 

In every court appearance, Glass’s family and friends show up in the small courtroom in Georgetown wearing pink, Christian’s favorite color. His parents described the settlement as “sad money” that they hope will support resources for young people. They are still figuring out what form that may take.

CPR News’ Allison Sherry contributed reporting.