The cousin of the black man who was shot and killed last Saturday by Colorado Springs police is disputing officers’ claims that De’Von Bailey reached for a gun before fleeing.
Lawrence Stoker, who was questioned along with Bailey in a reported armed robbery nearby, said he didn’t know his cousin had a gun until it fell out of the pocket of his basketball shorts as he lay motionless in the street after being shot.
Three witnesses who spoke with The Gazette, Kara Garcia, Elizabeth Powell and Antwan Powell, backed up Stoker’s claim that, while his cousin was armed, he never went for his gun before police opened fire on the fleeing man, hitting him in the back. Bailey, 19, and Stoker were stopped on the street about 6:50 p.m. in the neighborhood southeast of Memorial Park, commonly known as K-land for a closed Kmart in the area, by officers looking for two black men suspected in a robbery on East Fountain Boulevard.
In a news release Sunday, police said Bailey reached for a weapon before he was shot.
Stoker, also 19, said his cousin didn’t reach for a weapon before he took off running. As his cousin ran, Stoker said three officers fired nine to 10 shots at him. In the news release, police said at least one officer fired at Bailey, and that two officers were “involved” in the incident.
Stoker paused, covering his mouth with his hand as he related the shooting. “I felt scared. I just cried so bad.”
Surveillance video, obtained from a camera at a nearby apartment building at 2141 Preuss Road, shows Bailey run four or five steps into the camera’s view before he tumbles to the ground. Two officers walk over to him from the direction he came from with their weapons drawn. Bailey died later in a hospital, police said. No gun is visible in the video.
In the video, the officers crouch over Bailey and appear to be performing chest compressions.
Other officers handcuffed Stoker and then took him to the police station, where he was interrogated into the early morning, he said. Police repeatedly asked him if Bailey tried to reach for a gun; Stoker told them, ‘no.’
“He didn’t have enough time for that even if he wanted to,” Stoker said he told police.
During the interrogation, Stoker said he was asked about a wallet with $35 in cash that someone had reported being stolen.
Stoker said he told the officers he hadn’t stolen a wallet and that neither he nor Bailey had been on Fountain Boulevard that day. Stoker was not charged with robbery, although he said he was cited for assault after admitting he had been in a fight earlier that day.
According to archived police radio traffic provided by RadioReference.com, dispatchers notified officers to be on the lookout for two suspects in an armed robbery near a nursing home in the area.
“Units copy info for a robbery with a weapon. 2438 East Fountain Boulevard, Terrace Gardens. It was a personal robbery.”
“Suspect one is going to be a black male, approximately 6 feet tall, light afro and a goatee. Lives by the Rosewood apartments. Nickname is Spaz. Second suspect is a heavier black male with short hair. Approximately 190 pounds and no clothing descriptions at this time,” the dispatcher said.
“The one with the goatee is going to be the one with the gun.”
Stoker said Bailey was wearing a black T-shirt and baggy black shorts. He described his cousin as 5 feet, 10 inches tall, 180 pounds and had a goatee and a grown-out fade hairstyle.
Stoker, who said he weighs about 200 pounds and is 5 feet 9 inches tall, was wearing a red shirt and black sweats. He said he was unarmed, carrying only an iPad.
According to Stoker, he and Bailey were leaving his uncle’s house on Doniphan Drive and were a half-mile from Stoker’s house at 519 Placid Drive when six to seven police vehicles pulled up behind him.
The officers asked if they were “Spaz” and “Juice,” referring to Bailey and Stoker by their nicknames. The two gave their real names and were told by officers they were under arrest for armed robbery.
Before officers could pat Bailey or Stoker down, Bailey turned to run, Stoker said.
Stoker gave conflicting details in recounting what happened in the moments before the shooting.
He said he didn’t know Bailey was armed until the gun fell out of his pocket after he was shot. He also said Bailey might have run because he was afraid he would be caught with a weapon while facing a felony charge. On April 8, Bailey was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault by a person in a position of trust. Five days before the shooting, he pleaded not guilty.
“(Bailey) couldn’t have that gun on him or anything like that or he would have went to jail,” Stoker said. “He can’t see his kid.”
Stoker later added Bailey had a gun “to protect himself.”
The shooting has angered some in the community, with more than 60 people taking part in a protest march Monday from City Hall to police headquarters decrying police brutality and racial discrimination.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the shooting, declined to comment on Stoker’s account. Colorado Springs police spokesman Lt. James Sokolik has not released details about the armed robbery that preceded the shooting.
Police have said the officers were wearing body cameras and that there is video of the confrontation with Bailey, which is not visible in the surveillance video obtained by The Gazette. The Sheriff’s Office has refused to release the body camera video, citing the ongoing investigation into the shooting.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said in an interview Wednesday with a local TV station that he would like to see the body camera videos from police released “as soon as possible,” while acknowledging that the decision is up to the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office.
The question of whether Bailey went for a weapon, or if police suspected he was armed, could be crucial in determining if officers were justified in using deadly force, said a retired Los Angeles police officer, Adam Bercovici.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Tennessee v. Garner in 1985 that an officer can use deadly force to prevent a suspect from escaping only if the officer believes the suspect poses a significant threat of death or severe physical injury to the officer or others.
If Bailey were armed, he could be deemed an immediate threat, Bercovici said. “An armed suspect is different,” he said.
Bailey is the fifth person killed this year by police in Colorado Springs. Two of the shootings have been ruled justified, while the other three remain under investigation.
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