Standing behind a clear podium, De’Von Bailey’s family and their attorneys, along with prominent members of the black community, on Tuesday demanded a transparent and independent investigation into the fatal Aug. 3 police shooting of Bailey.
At least 100 people joined them at a news conference outside the downtown headquarters of the Colorado Springs Police Department. Many hoisted signs, echoing the call for immediate release of police evidence in Bailey's killing.
The Rev. Promise Lee demanded prompt release of footage from body cameras and dash cameras. He also called for an independent prosecutor from outside of El Paso County to investigate the shooting, in which witnesses say police shot the young black man seven times in the back.
"We did not come here to bow our heads and pray — especially with our backs facing the police department. But we came here with a list of demands," said Lee, pastor of Relevant Word Ministries in the Hillside community.
He also called for a grand jury to decide the case.
"Mayor Suthers and CSPD, we do not trust you," Lee said to the crowd.
Trust needs to be built between police and city residents, said Deb Walker, executive director of the Citizens Project.
"Today in our city, we are the latest in a long line of police-involved killings of young black men," Walker said. "The questions before us as a community (are): How will we be different? How will we handle this as a community so we become stronger, instead of stoking the flames of mistrust?"
The Rev. Stephany Rose Spaulding emphasized that the life of 19-year-old Bailey — like the lives of so many other people of color — is worth honoring.
"We are not anti-police. But we are for the life and liberty of every human being in this city, in this state, in this country. And we cannot have two legal systems for communities of color and those who are white," said Spaulding, one of the Democratic candidates hoping to challenge U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.
Bailey’s father, Greg, shifted the focus to claims that Bailey was shot in the back as he fled police.
"I don't want to make this about 'Black Lives Matter' or anything, because all of our lives matter," Greg Bailey said, wearing a blue T-shirt printed with a photo of his son as a child. "I know everyone says that my son was killed by a white cop, and he's a black man in the community.
“Yes, those are facts, but that's not what this is about. This is (about) what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong. And what's wrong is that my son was shot in the back by law enforcement."
Bailey’s mother, Delisha Searcy, echoed his perspective. "This matters for everybody who has a child in their life. You never think it could happen to you, but I thought that. So we have to fight for justice so no one else has to deal with this pain of not seeing their child."
The Sheriff's Office said its investigation into the shooting will be done by Friday. Then its findings will be presented to the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. If District Attorney Dan May decides not to charge an officer with criminal conduct, he must, by law, issue a public report explaining his findings.
The Sheriff’s Office is investigating the case “as it has the other 23 Colorado Springs officer-involved shootings since the passing of Senate Bill 15-219, in accordance with Colorado Revised Statute 16-2.5-301," said agency spokeswoman Jacqueline Kirby.
Senate Bill 219, signed May 20, 2015, by then-Gov. John Hickenlooper, requires each law enforcement agency and district attorney’s office to "develop protocols for participating in a multi-agency team" to investigate officer-involved shootings that result in injury or death. The team should include "at least one other police department or sheriff's office, or the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
"Utilizing outside assistance in both manpower and resources promotes a better and more complete investigation before turning the matter over to the district attorney for a decision on whether or not the shooting was justified.
"Further,” the law says, “including outside agencies in an investigation promotes and encourages a level of transparency and objectivity that provides increased credibility to the final outcome. Finally, including outside agencies eliminates any biases, whether real or perceived, which in turn strengthens public confidence in the outcomes of such investigations."
Public confidence is key to the efficacy of the criminal justice system, the law says.
Asked for a statement, police Lt. James Sokolik said, “We understand that the family is grieving and looking for answers to what occurred on August 3rd. … CSPD is still committed to releasing body worn camera video of the incident by the end of the week, as long as it does not interfere with the ongoing investigation by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.”
Attorney Darold W. Kilmer urged the city to ask Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser to lead the investigation, with the help of a grand jury, to guarantee fairness and transparency.
"We cannot expect to investigate our friends and expect there to be an impartial outcome," Kilmer said, referencing the Sheriff's Office investigation into the shooting, which involved two CSPD officers.
Said Mayor John Suthers: "The notion that the mayor is going to say, 'Oh no, I'm not going to let you do the job that you were elected to do' ... that's ludicrous."
And asking the Colorado AG to lead the probe would be "inappropriate and evidence of a lack of trust in the agencies down here that I don't have," he said.
Jeresneyka Rose, 28, said the community in southeast Colorado Springs has significant mistrust of the police. She said she has felt that tension since she was young.
Now, she said, she feels her community isn't being heard, as many people were quick to criminalize Bailey.
"If (police) say they are looking for a black man that may be a robber, that's any black man that’s playing in the street. It could have been the kids that were playing at the park. It could have been Tamir Rice. It could have been Mike Brown," Rose said after the news conference. "It could have been anybody. Just because it is a black person they are looking for doesn’t mean you have the right to chase down and shoot the first black person you see."