Bullet-proof vests save lives of two Denver police officers shot in 24-hour span

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Lights on a police vehicle.

Updated at 7:16 p.m. June 13, 2023

Bullet-proof vests saved the lives of two Denver police officers who were shot in two separate incidents in one 24 hour period this week, officials said.

The two incidents bring the tally of law enforcement officers shot in Colorado in 2023 to three, according to numbers released by the National Fraternal Order of Police on June 1. 

Nationally so far this year, 166 officers have been shot in the line of duty and 20 have been killed by gunfire, the fraternal order said.

Early Wednesday, a DPD officer was sitting in a hotel parking lot on the 2600 block of Zuni Street of Denver’s northwest side when a man walked out of a hotel and began firing shots from the doorway into the passenger window of the police car. 

The officer was hit three times – twice in his back and once in his chest – but was able to escape the car on the driver’s side and fire shots back, killing the man. He was briefly hospitalized and released Thursday.

Then, about 12 hours later, another officer responded to the shot spotter report of gunfire around the intersection of MLK Boulevard and Cherry Street on Denver’s east side. A witness in the neighborhood give a description of the suspect. The officer spotted someone matching the description fleeing on a scooter, and then on foot, east on MLK toward Forest Street. There was a confrontation, and the men exchanged gunfire. The officer was shot in the chest but fired back, critically hitting the man.

That officer was also released from the hospital after a short stay. Neither the suspects nor the officers have been identified, but both officers were men and both had been with the police force for more than five years.

DPD Division Chief Rick Kyle told reporters Thursday that body armor is not required for officers but strongly encouraged.

“We’re very fortunate today. We could have lost two of our officers," he said. "But because of them keeping themselves safe, we’re in a very fortunate position.”

Kyle called jobs in law enforcement difficult and dangerous.

“I’d like to take a moment to express the heroism and bravery of the Denver police officers who show up every single day ... holidays, weekends despite the extreme threats to their safety that we’ve seen in full action unfortunately today,” he said. 

DPD Chief Ron Thomas, in a separate press conference, agreed.

“Unfortunately there are a lot of guns in our society in Denver, and unfortunately there are neighborhoods where gunfire is a common occurrence,” he said.

In a statement released Thursday, DPD said having two officers shot in one day “definitely has an impact on the department and the officers.” 

“We encourage officers to partake in the resiliency program following critical incidents such as these, and throughout the year to ensure they remain as healthy as possible, so that when trauma occurs, they are better equipped to handle it,” the statement said. “The DPD family is strong and when an officer is injured the outpouring of love and support is felt throughout the agency.”

Because a civilian was also injured and another killed, both incidents are under investigation by the Colorado State Patrol and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the Denver District Attorney’s Office, officials said.

Editor's note: This story was updated to clarify how police obtained a description of a suspect.