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Explaining officer involved shooting investigations

Sheriff's Office tells us how investigations work
Posted: 10:58 PM, Aug 06, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-07 00:58:08-04
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COLORADO SPRINGS — Mayor John Suthers on Tuesday called for patience from the community amid the cry for answers regarding the officer involved shooting from Saturday night. According to the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, 19-year-old De'Von Bailey died at the hospital after at least one officer fired a shot, and his family has been searching for more information. However, investigators said the process of properly handling cases like these can take time.

In Colorado, legislation from 2015 requires the investigating agency to be separate from the agency actually involved in the shooting. So, even though the Colorado Springs Police Department were the ones to respond to the call on Saturday night, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office is investigating.

The shooting was followed by a vigil on Sunday and a protest on Monday. One of Bailey's friends, Delaundre Jenkins, said "we really want the truth, we want the autopsy, we want everything that we need. Any details that we can get, from the body cam. I want proof, I want written statements, I want the officer's statements." Those with the Sheriff's Office said these cases take time, to ensure the correct information is released.

News 5 met with a spokesperson from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office to discuss how any officer involved shooting is investigated. The following information is not pertaining to a specific case, and applies to all cases of the sort.

Sheriff's Office spokesperson Natalie Sosa said the first step in any case like this is for officers to respond to the scene, interview witnesses, and collect evidence. She also said the length of time the case takes depends on many different factors, including the amount of evidence and how quickly the crime lab deals with it, if there are other cases happening at the same time, and how many witnesses need to be interviewed. They also do not release information while it is an active investigation, which includes body cam footage, to avoid compromising the case in any way. "They want to independently investigate the case without releasing information too quickly that may have any kind of impact on their active investigation," said Sosa. If there is body cam footage in a case, it is left up to the Sheriff's Office to determine if they will release it once the investigation is over.

Sosa said an investigation can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Once an investigation is completed, the evidence gets handed over to the District Attorney's office, and they decide whether or not to bring charges or hand it over to a Grand Jury.

The officers involved in the shooting from Saturday night are currently on leave.

Here is the full statement from Mayor John Suthers:

“The City of Colorado Springs and CSPD recognize the concerns of many citizens of our community following the officer-involved shooting of Devon Bailey on Saturday night. It is in the best interest of everyone involved, and our entire community, to ensure that the incident is fully and effectively investigated and an appropriate conclusion is reached. We know that there can be frustration with the time this takes, but we cannot compromise the investigation by failing to spend the appropriate time gathering the facts; that would serve no one.

We pledge that the City and CSPD will work cooperatively and diligently with the investigating agency, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, to ensure a thorough evaluation of the evidence, and there is a robust process in place to accomplish this. The evidence gathered by the EPSO will be provided to the district attorney who will review the evidence and apply the Colorado law regarding use of force by police officers. The DA can decide whether or not to bring charges or refer the matter to a Grand Jury to make the determination. If the DA decides not to charge an officer with criminal conduct, he is required by law to issue a public report explaining his findings. A Grand Jury, in its discretion, can issue a report concerning its decision.

A credible investigation and charging decision takes time and I ask the community to exercise patience as we allow the investigative and judicial process to work.”