Colorado Springs City Council chambers overflowed with De’Von Bailey supporters Tuesday demanding an independent investigation into the Aug. 3 fatal police shooting of the 19-year-old black man.
Twenty-four residents, including Bailey’s family, church leaders and concerned parents and a student representative from Colorado College, addressed council members to express the need for an impartial third party to investigate the shooting and their concerns regarding future policing policies in the city. As they stood at the podium in front of the room, many turned toward Mayor John Suthers, who sat in the front row.
Several held signs calling for 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May to recuse himself in the investigation. Another read: “Too many conflicts of interest.”
After a brief agenda at Tuesday’s regular City Council meeting, Council President Richard Skorman urged all interested in speaking about Bailey’s case to share their concerns.
“We are one of the latest communities in our nation dealing with a police-involved killing of a young black teen and our collective fear is that black men are not getting justice and our laws and policies are inadequate to address this reality,” said Deb Walker, executive director of Citizens Project.
Walker echoed the need for transparency into Bailey’s shooting and called for a thorough review of Colorado Springs’ code charter and policies relevant to policing.
Suthers, who did not comment at the meeting but provided a comment to The Gazette, said he empathized with those impacted by the shooting.
The shooting, which was the city’s fifth fatal police shooting this year, has sparked controversy among the community and nationwide, some decrying police misconduct. Body camera footage shows two officers shot at a fleeing Bailey after he refused orders to raise his hands. Police approached Bailey and his cousin after they received reports about an armed robbery and were told that Bailey had a gun.
“I know there are very different perspectives on the incident itself and feelings of grief, anger and questioning that come from these different perspectives. As we await a legal resolution of this case, I urge our community to embrace a spirit of healing,” Suthers said in a statement.
As mayor, he said he does not have the authority to take the case from May, an elected official whose office is investigating the case. Per Senate Bill 15-219, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office’s Deadly Force Investigations Team also investigates officer-involved shootings.
“I also have no reason to urge it, as there is no legal or ethical conflict of interest that I am aware of. I would point out that the FBI and DOJ have jurisdiction to review the matter and it’s my understanding that they are doing so,” he said.
After the community discussion, Councilman Bill Murray said he will ask for an independent probe into the shooting.
“I promise you, I will reengage. I will ask for a citizen review committee and an independent investigation,” Murray said, adding that his request for a review board was denied by the mayor four years ago.
Many residents at the meeting expressed a lack of trust between police and the residents living in southeast Colorado Springs, particularly in a community southeast of Memorial Park known as K-Land for a closed Kmart in the area, where Bailey was killed.
“If something happens in the community, at least you should consult with the people who understand the pulse and the heartbeats in those communities,” said the Rev. Promise Lee. “Now, dozens of people in that particular community, as I speak today, are traumatized.
“They have not received any counseling, any condolences from city leaders. They don’t know what to do. We are here today to speak on their behalf,” Lee said.
Rev. Heather Haginduff advocated for a citizen oversight board to make policy-level recommendations on use of force, police training and to address community concerns. She cited similar models created in Denver, Fort Collins and Ferguson, Mo.
“The outcome of citizen review boards typically include increased transparency, improved accountability, improved public trust, legitimacy of investigations and greater community engagement,” the pastor of downtown First Congregational Church said.
Councilman David Geislinger said Bailey’s death brought to light issues deeply rooted in the community.
“There are issues obviously of race that need to be addressed,” he said.
Stephany Rose Spaulding decried the lack of internal files for Sgt. Alan Van’t Land, one of the two officers involved in Bailey’s shooting. After an attorney for Lawrence Stoker, Bailey’s cousin, pressed for access for the reports last week in court, a city attorney said none exist.
“I question, as we think about budgets, I question as we think about the citizens of Colorado Springs who continue to then trust our taxes to you: how is it possible that you have individuals on the force that are consistently involved in excessive force cases that have no files?” said Spaulding, one of the Democratic candidates hoping to challenge U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.
Van’t Land was involved in the fatal shooting of a man in 2012 and accused of using excessive force in 2011. The DA’s office did not press criminal charges in the shooting and according to a quarterly report from City Council, the city settled the excessive force lawsuit for $50,000.
Spaulding also denounced the 20 bullet wounds found on Joshua Vigil’s body after he was killed by police less than two weeks before Bailey.