In closing arguments of Christian Glass homicide trial, prosecutors say Glass was ‘tortured’ by law enforcement while defense describes an armed man driving under the influence

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A photo of Christian Glass rests among flowers during a vigil for the late 22-year-old, on Wednesday evening, Sept. 20, 2022, in Idaho Springs. Glass 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.

Prosecutors on Thursday said they didn’t blame Christian Glass for refusing to get out of his own car in the last hour of his life.

In closing arguments to a jury in Georgetown in the trial of Andrew Buen, the former sheriff’s deputy charged in the 22-year-old Boulder man’s homicide, Fifth Judicial District Attorney Heidi McCollum compared Glass to an animal in a cage, who was poked, prodded and tortured by law enforcement.

“Buen didn’t want Christian to touch a knife, so Christian put his hands up and didn’t touch the knife,” McCollum said. “He got a gun pulled on him. So Christian has to be thinking to himself, ‘I did exactly what they told me. I didn’t touch the knife … and now they’re pointing guns at me. I did what they told me to do.’ No wonder he didn’t trust them. No wonder he was scared.”

Buen fatally shot Glass after a 70-minute confrontation on a dark road in Silver Plume in June 2022 with almost a dozen other law enforcement officers present.

Glass initially called 911 dispatchers for help from his car when he apparently crashed it on some small boulders and couldn’t back out 

When Buen and his then-partner, Tim Collins, arrived on the scene, they demanded Glass get out of the car. Glass said he was scared and refused. The situation escalated.

Additional officers from four other law enforcement agencies arrived on the scene, including the Colorado State Patrol.

Buen sought permission to shatter the car windows where Glass was locked inside. Then he deployed a bean bag gun and a stun gun before ultimately shooting Glass five times and killing him.

“Time is on the side of law enforcement. No one was in danger. What would have been wrong about waiting two hours or three hours?” McCollum said. “Instead Buen stepped up the force more, he started using bean bag rounds, a pain-compliance technique. At that point, Christian is like an animal in a cage, being poked and prodded.”

Buen's defense team focuses on how Glass was driving under the influence and not obeying police orders

Buen’s defense attorney, Carrie Slinkard, accused prosecutors of dangling distractions at the jury throughout the trial, including Taser wires and details that were irrelevant to what Buen knew and feared at the time: that Glass was driving under the influence and not obeying lawful orders to get out of the car. 

Also noteworthy, Slinkard said, Glass was armed with a knife he had in his car from a geology trip, and that Buen was afraid he was a threat to other officers on the scene — particularly former Georgetown Police Chief Randy Williams.

“The knife, the switchblade, that was used in the attempted attack to stop Chief Williams was just glossed over like it wasn’t important,” Slinkard told jurors in closing arguments on behalf of her client, who was fired from the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office after Glass’s death. “That’s the most important piece of evidence that’s sitting in that pile right there.”

Courtesy Clear Creek County
Former Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Buen, at left, in a screen capture from video during a court proceeding Monday, Dec. 12, 2022.

Slinkard also said that investigating driving under the influence cases is an important — and sometimes dangerous — job for law enforcement officers.

“The enforcement of a DUI is important and yes, you can take someone out of a vehicle for DUI investigations,” she said. “They (the prosecutors) completely ignore the DUI side of this … When it is your job as the elected official of this judicial district to ensure that justice is happening, to ensure your investigations are thorough, are accurate, are detailed, are true and not misleading. You should want every bit of information about that situation … so you don’t destroy the life of somebody.”

In response, chief deputy district attorney Stephen Potts stood up and thanked the jury for their service. He then said: “Our office will never condone shooting someone for DUI in this county.”

“Counsel talks to you like we’re the bad guys,” he said, positioning his podium to speak directly to the jury. “You are never going to be shot in this county for being DUI. Don’t lose focus on what this is about.”

Buen's actions were not 'objectively reasonable,' according to expert hired by prosecutors

Throughout the almost two-week trial, prosecutors have sought to talk about “reasonableness” in Buen’s actions. This is a legal standard that probes what a “reasonable officer” would do under the circumstances. 

An expert witness hired by prosecutors, Seth Stoughton, a law enforcement expert and professor of law at the University of South Carolina, said he didn’t believe Buen’s actions that night were objectively reasonable. 

“Did he have objectively reasonable grounds to believe that he or someone else was in imminent danger of being killed?” McCollum said. “He was in the worst possible position to tell.”

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Silver Plume in Clear Creek County, just off Interstate 70 west of Georgetown. Christian Glass called for help from his stranded vehicle in Silver Plume in June 2022.

She said Buen was standing almost the farthest from where Glass sat locked in his car with his rock knife and would have had a hard time seeing the actions of his hands from where he was. 

McCollum also noted that no other officers fired any bullets from their guns that night and that, once Buen did shoot Glass five times, Collins, his partner, could be heard saying on body-worn camera footage, “My God what have we done?”

Prosecutors pointed out Buen went through almost 800 hours of training and 20 hours of special weapons and tactics and de-escalation training in 2022 alone.

Defense showed footage of Glass holding a knife and repeatedly being told to leave the car

Slinkard played the body-worn camera footage on Wednesday to jurors showing Glass’ movements in the car in his last moments of life as he clutched a knife and the former Georgetown chief hovered outside the car with a Taser.

Officers on the scene, including Buen, repeatedly tried to tell Glass that he would be forcibly removed from the car.

“Nobody is paying attention to whether the things they (prosecutors) are saying are actually true, and this is a murder case,” Slinkard said. “You cannot just sit behind your car door indefinitely with your windows rolled up in order to avoid contact or prevent from being arrested … Law enforcement officers in this case repeatedly told Christian that they would break a window to make entry if he continued refusing to comply. She (DA McCollum) is using that as evidence of murder.”

Buen faces a felony second-degree murder charge, official misconduct, and reckless endangerment, the latter two are misdemeanors. 

Jurors are deliberating at the courthouse in Georgetown.

Previous coverage of the trial: