Black lives matter. Among a few Colorado politicians, they seem to matter a whole lot more than other lives.
Consider a deadly scenario.
A dispatcher tells Colorado Springs police of a man walking with a gun. Cops find the man and confront him. He flees. Police shoot him dead a short time later.
The dead man’s family and friends, along with The Gazette, ask for body camera footage. Law enforcement denies the requests.
This was not the Aug. 3 lethal shooting of De’Von Bailey, who took four gunshots while running from cops with a gun in his shorts. This was the July 23 killing of Joshua Vigil. He fled police in a Mustang after they tried to question him. He reportedly crashed the vehicle. Cops found Vigil and the car at an apartment complex.
“During the encounter, at least one officer fired a shot at the suspect,” explains a Police Department news release.
That is about all we knew until Monday. Though law enforcement quickly released video of the Bailey shooting, the Colorado Springs Police Department continues declining requests for video of the Vigil shooting. To release it, the department says, would be “contrary to the public interest.”
An autopsy and toxicology report released Monday reveals Vigil died of 20 gunshot wounds to his head, stomach, and foot. Seven bullets entered his back. We know he reportedly had a gun; we don’t know if he pulled a gun on cops. Unless and until otherwise informed, we shall assume law enforcement acted lawfully. We trust a standard investigation will ensure justice for all involved.
Bailey (four bullets) was black; Vigil (20 bullets) was white.
Vigil’s four grieving daughters, his wife and “countless friends and family” mentioned in his obituary would like answers and details. They cannot get them, and no one seems to care. They don’t have throngs of white liberals staging protests at City Hall. They don’t see coverage in the national press.
Gov. Jared Polis wants a special, independent investigation of the Bailey shooting. He knew nothing of the 20 bullets in Vigil when we mentioned it to him during a meeting Wednesday.
Colorado Attorney Gen. Phil Weiser said this week law enforcement might need more training. Not because of Monday’s 20-bullet coroner’s report. Cops might need more “racial bias” education. Of course. Because Bailey was black.
Tuesday, a crowd of mostly white protesters packed the City Council chambers. Not because a family learned Monday their loved one died of 20 bullet wounds. They were there for Bailey — because he was black.
Councilman Bill Murray promised an independent investigation and review by a citizen’s committee. Not an investigation of the Vigil shooting in which the family can get no video or meaningful information. He wants an investigation of the Bailey shooting, the one we’ve seen from at least three angles.
We asked Polis why he seems so concerned about one police shooting, but not all others involving armed suspects fleeing police.
We wonder why the governor has not spoken up about the white man shot in the back and killed as he fled from cops in Rifle, two days after Bailey’s shooting. Officer-involved shootings often involve white suspects fleeing with guns. We just don’t hear much about it. We never hear Polis, Weiser and Murray demanding special inquiries.
“There’s a premium in making sure the community trusts the integrity of the process,” Polis said regarding the Bailey investigation. “I would highlight, yes, particularly when that comes to matters of race in a heightened racial environment that we’re in.”
Perhaps it is a “heightened racial environment” because of bogus allegations involving racial bias in officer-involved shootings.
“We want to make sure that when the process comes back — and particularly if there aren’t any charges — that the community is confident in that outcome and doesn’t lose faith in law enforcement,” Polis said.
Nothing undermines faith in local law enforcement quite like the governor questioning the integrity of a routine investigation.
Officer-involved shootings are horrible outcomes for everyone involved. Police try to avoid them but cannot allow suspects considered armed and dangerous — white, black or other — to get loose in the community after resisting inquiry or arrest.
Legal experts who have studied the Bailey videos do not expect charges against the officers who killed him. The circumstances and outcome were fairly routine among officer-involved shootings, they say. Nothing recorded at the scene indicates racial bias. The officers could not have been more respectful and polite before an armed robbery suspect turned and ran with his hands near a gun.
Bailey died like so many white suspects who run from police. The special public outcry, the headlines and the political pandering unveil prima facie racial bias.
The Gazette Editorial Board