COLORADO SPRINGS — Monday marks one year since an officer-involved shooting in Colorado Springs claimed the life of De'Von Bailey, a 19-year-old father-to-be.
The officers were ultimately found justified in their actions and since then, there have been numerous discussions on police reform around the nation.
Officers from the Colorado Springs Police Department were called to a reported robbery that involved a gun on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Investigators said officers tried to stop Bailey and his cousin, another suspect, after the alleged victims identified them and that there was an attempt to pull a gun.
The case was eventually referred to a grand jury, which determined in November 2019 that the officers involved were justified in their use of force.
After the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis this spring, when nationwide protests surrounding the death of people of color at the hands of police erupted, Bailey's death again became a topic of conversation. Protesters chanted his name at many demonstrations and marches.
On Monday, August 3 of this year, around a hundred people gathered to march in a neighborhood on Pulpit Rock Road in Colorado Springs. Their destination was a CSPD Sgt.'s home within the neighborhood, who was there on the night De'Von died. "We still got these officers that are out there that murdered De'Von Bailey, when he was running away and he got shot in the back," said Jaream Ross, one of the people at the march.
Shaun Walls said the Empowerment Solidarity Network, of which he is a member, assembled the march. He described the network as a grassroots organization for the black community in Colorado Springs, specifically, the southeast portion.
Bailey's cousin, Lawrence Stoker, was at the march on Monday. "Hopefully today, it helps something... I think about it every day," said Stoker, referencing August 3, 2019.
During the march, there were a couple of tense moments between demonstrators and drivers trying to get through the crowd. Some neighbors even came outside their homes and held weapons, showing them to the protesters, some of which were armed. Other neighbors decided to join in with the march. "They should be out walking with us, supporting, because if all lives matter then why aren't they angry also?" said Jared Waddell, who has lived in the neighborhood since February.
The group had a message for the Bailey family as well. "We know that we can't carry the grief that you live with every day, and the loss of De'Von's life. But, we will continue to stand with you and fight for justice, so that you know you are not alone, and that it does not happen to anyone else's child... We are not going away, and we are not going to continue to tolerate the over-policing and the terrorizing of citizens in this city," said Rev. Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding, who was at the march.
In June of 2019, CSPD said they were working to address race relations through a program the department added in 2017. "The Illumination Project" creates opportunities for CSPD officers and community members to discuss issues in the community such as race, religion, and police relationships.
This summer, the Colorado Springs City Council heard from a group developing plans for a new civilian oversight committee. The committee came about as local leaders began working to build stronger relationships between police and protesters.
City council later unanimously approved the creation of the Law Enforcement Transparency and Accountability Commission. At the end of July, councilmembers said they reviewed more than 800 applications for the board and moved 100 forward to the next phase of the selection process.
Demonstrators gathered in downtown Colorado Springs to celebrate the bill, while calling for more action in Bailey's death.
- Aug. 3 - De'Von Bailey shot: Two Colorado Springs Police Department officers following up on a report of a robbery with a weapon stop De'Von Bailey and his cousin for questioning near Adams Park. Bailey runs away, ignoring commands to put his "hands up," the officers fire several times striking him in the back and arm. He was pronounced dead after life-saving efforts by officers and medics
- Aug. 4 - Witnesses say Bailey shot in the back: In the 24 hours after the shooting, the community rallies around information from witnesses who say Bailey was shot in the back, increasing demands for more information
- Aug. 5 - Protest at City Hall and CSPD Operations: A planned protest by groups demanding answers is a loud and active affair, especially when 2 bounty hunters arrive and exchange words with people chanting "Black Lives Matter." The men drew their pistols as they backed away from the crowd. Police arrested the twin brothers
- Aug. 7 - Home video surveillance released: A neighbor who lives near the shooting scene releases a short video clip that shows Bailey running from the officers and falling to the ground. This is the first video evidence supporting the witness statements Bailey was shot in the back
- Aug. 13 - Demonstration at CSPD Operations Center: The Bailey family begins their public demand for an independent investigation, stating their mistrust in the process of having the El Paso County Sheriff's Office handle the gathering of evidence which will be given to the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office for review of the facts
- Aug. 15 - Body cam video is released: The Colorado Springs Police Department releases a video showing the 911 call concerning the incident and the perspective of the officers as they spoke with and eventually shot Bailey as he ran. The video shows Bailey holding the front of his pants while running. Officers found a pistol while providing first aid
- Aug. 15 - Autopsy released by family attorney: A family attorney provides the media with the Coroner's Office autopsy that shows De'Von Bailey was shot 3 times in a close grouping in his lower back, and one bullet struck his right arm."The wounds collectively perforated the heart, left lung, diaphragm, and penetrated the spleen, resulting in massive blood loss and his subsequent death," states the report
- Aug. 22 - Gov. Polis voices support: Gov. Jared Polis releases a statement expressing support for an independent investigation into the officer-involved shooting that killed 19-year-old De'Von Bailey. He said he "hopes El Paso County takes steps above those legally required to additionally maximize public trust in the investigation"
- Aug. 22 - Mayor Suthers responds to Polis: Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers responded with a statement of his own, saying "the governor cites no legal or ethical basis" that should lead the District Attorney to recuse himself from the case. "I'm concerned that he suggests a precedence with impacts he has not yet considered and does not understand, to include undermining the will of the people, who elected the public officials charged with carrying out legal responsibilities," the statement continues
- Aug. 22 - Family and supporters demand release of more information: In a statement sent to News5, the family said the Colorado Springs Police Department "promoted its own narrative by splicing together parts of 9-1-1 and dispatch tapes, a video manipulated to mislead the viewer, and an incomplete statement of the law"
- Sept. 10 - Public comment at City Council: Members of the public use their allotted time at the Colorado Springs City Council meeting to voice their distrust of the investigative system and continue calls for an independent investigation
- Sept. 11 - FBI looking into case: News5 confirms the Federal Bureau of Investigation is reviewing the evidence in the shooting to determine if there are any potential civil rights violations involved
- Oct. 4 - Case referred to grand jury: 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May's office refers the case to the grand jury in El Paso County to review the evidence and hear from those involved in order to make a determination if charges should be filed
- Nov. 13 - Grand jury ruling released: According to District Attorney Dan May, the grand jury determined Sgt. Vant Land and Officer Evenson were "legally justified" in their actions when they shot De'Von Bailey
- Nov. 13 - Family attorney refutes process: Attorney Mari Newman says bias played a role in how the grand jury ruled. "When there is a tainted investigation presented by a biased prosecutor the grand jury doesn't have adequate information to make that kind of a finding, and that's exactly what the system was designed for"
- Nov. 13 - CSPD Chief Vince Niski releases statement: "There is no doubt that the community of Colorado Springs has been tested over the last few month. What happened on August 3, 2019, is something neither police officers nor citizens want to experience. The loss of a son, a friend, a community member, is a devastating event that impacts all of us." - Colorado Springs Police Chief Vince Niski
- June 4 - Family of De'Von Bailey files civil rights lawsuit against Colorado Springs PD, officers: The family of De’Von Bailey filed a lawsuit against the Colorado Springs Police Department and the two officers alleging federal civil rights violations. The lawsuit was filed by the civil rights firm Killmer, Lane & Newman in the U.S. District Court of Colorado in Denver on behalf of Bailey’s estate, which is represented by Bailey’s parents, girlfriend and their child, who was born after Bailey’s death
Events leading to De'Von Bailey's shooting
Surveillance video from that day showed Bailey running into the frame and falling to the ground less than a second later. Police then ran into the picture with guns drawn before shifting to administering aid.
That video did not show what happened before Bailey and the officers ran into the camera's view.
Protests in the aftermath of Bailey's death
Days after the shooting a protest in Colorado Springs drew attention to Bailey's death as well as other police shootings in the city. At that time, five men had died in police shootings in Colorado Springs.
Organizers of that demonstration said their goal was to call attention to racist gun violence, to police brutality, and to gun violence in the community.
Investigation and results
Before the initial investigation was finished, a lawyer for Bailey's family, Darold Killmer, called for an independent investigation into the incident. Killmer claimed there were "many conflicts of interest" between CSPD and the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, which was investigating the shooting, and the 4th Judicial District Attorney's office.
The video shows 911 calls audio about a robbery then cuts to body camera video from two officers questioning Bailey and his cousin. It shows Bailey and his cousin putting their hands up when the police arrived, and when officers asked if either of them were armed Bailey began to run away.
That's when officers identified as Sgt. Alan Vant Land and Officer Blake Evenson chased Bailey and fired multiple times before he fell to the ground.
The video also shows officers cutting away Bailey's pants, which showed the outline of a gun. The day the video was released, Bailey's family said it did not justify the use of deadly force.
Attorneys for the family said the video showed Bailey was not presenting a threat to officers at the scene, and it was not obvious that Bailey was reaching for a gun in his waistband.
The attorney also released a copy of Bailey's autopsy report to the media. That report showed four gunshot wounds to the back and lower right arm.
On Aug. 16, the pastor of the church the Bailey family attended talked to the press after the family learned both officers had returned to duty. Pastor Terry Thomas of Lifting Up Jesus Church said the shooting tainted the reputation of safety for people of color in Colorado Springs.
The following week, on Aug. 22, Bailey's family called for release of the unedited video of the shooting. The family said CSPD "promoted its own narrative by splicing together parts of 9-1-1 and dispatch tapes, a video manipulated to mislead the viewer, and an incomplete statement of the law," and repeated calls for an independent investigation into the shooting.
Gov. Jared Polis said he supported such an investigation. Polis said he "hopes El Paso County takes steps above those legally required to additionally maximize public trust in the investigation" and said people in Colorado Springs deserve an independent investigation.
In response, Mayor John Suthers said the governor "cites no legal or ethical basis" that should lead the District Attorney to recuse himself from the case."
At a City Council meeting on Sept. 10 members heard from Bailey's friends and family. More than 50 people packed council chambers, many asking for the investigation to be turned over to a third party for review.
The following day it was announced that the FBI was reviewing the case.
Special Agent Amy Meyer said the Bureau has a responsibility to review all instances of officer-involved shootings. She wrote it was "doing so in communication with Colorado Springs Police Department, El Paso County Sheriff's Office, and the District Attorney's Office to independently collect and review evidence in determining if there has been a federal civil rights violation."
Later in September, Bailey's mother asked for money from a state victim's fund to help pay for her son's funeral. She said she was told she's not eligible for assistance until prosecutors ruled on whether the shooting was justified.
On Oct. 4, the District Attorney's office announced they would refer the investigation to a grand jury. That is a rare step in officer-involved shootings. News5 is only aware of one other CSPD shooting sent to a grand jury in the last five years.
In November, the grand jury found the officers were justified in the shooting. Family attorneys, who had argued against the sheriff's office investigating the shooting, criticized the decision.
The Grand Jury Report said jurors believed the officers were justified under two legal grounds: the "fleeing felon" defense and self-defense and defense against others.
A statement from attorney Mari Newman said "We are not one bit surprised. This is the exact outcome you would expect when you have a tainted investigation presented by a biased prosecutor. This is the precise reason we’ve been calling for an independent prosecutor from the beginning. When the system refuses to police themselves, citizens need to stand up for their constitutional rights."
A jury later found Bailey's cousin not guilty of assault in the alleged incident that led to the fatal shooting.
Aftermath of decision
In June, Bailey's family filed a civil rights lawsuit against CSPD and the officers involved. The lawsuit claims CSPD has a history of racial profiling against Black residents and seeks injunctive relief, economic losses, compensatory and consequential damages, punitive damages, and attorney's fees.