A Georgia mother has been denied money from a state victims fund to help pay funeral expenses for her teenage son who was shot in the back while running from Colorado Springs police.
Delisha Searcy, of Decatur, says she was told that she is ineligible for assistance under the Colorado Crime Victim Compensation fund until prosecutors determine whether Colorado Springs police Sgt. Alan Van’t Land and officer Blake Evenson acted lawfully when they killed a fleeing De’Von Bailey.
The request for assistance hinges on whether Bailey’s death was a crime, she said.
“They said, ‘We will not be paying anything until it is decided that De’Von did not do anything to basically cause this on himself — like make the cop shoot him,” said Searcy.
It’s unclear when El Paso County prosecutors will complete their review of the shooting, which was investigated by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. That review will determine if she is eligible for assistance and whether she receives what she calls “justice” for her son, whose shooting she calls unjustified.
“I want to make sure that there’s justice for De’Von so that no other parent has to go through this.”
Bailey, 19, was shot in the back as he was running from the two officers as they repeatedly ordered him to show his hands. He and his cousin, Lawrence Stoker, had been stopped moments earlier as potential suspects in a reported armed robbery nearby.
After he was shot, a police body cam video shows officers found a pistol in the pocket of Bailey’s shorts. At demonstrations at police headquarters and City Hall, his supporters called his death “murder” — saying he didn’t threaten anyone nor present a danger to officers as he attempted to avoid arrest.
Bailey’s funeral was held in Colorado Springs, thanks in large part to donations and the generosity of local churches.
But Searcy says she still has $9,000 in expenses at a time she’s struggling to care for four other children, all teenagers. She also petitioned the fund for roughly $1,800 in lost wages, along with compensation for gas and lodging during her drive from Georgia to Colorado Springs to receive her son’s body.
If the DA decides the two officers involved broke a law, then Searcy could be entitled to up to $30,000 under the fund, she said.
But if investigators determined the officers had no choice, then Bailey’s death wouldn’t be considered a crime and his relatives won’t be eligible for help. She has struggled to make ends meet since the shooting, too traumatized to go to her job, which involves working with children in a school, she said.
A spokeswoman for the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office refused to discuss why Searcy’s request was denied, citing a state statute that declares all records and information relating to a victim’s claim as confidential.
The victims compensation fund was established in 1981 as a way to financially assist victims of violent crimes across the state. In passing that legislation, crime victim compensation programs were also created in each of the state’s 22 judicial districts, which are responsible for administering and managing the funds.
The Crime Victim Services Advisory Board, made up of three citizens appointed by the DA, reviews each application. To be eligible for funding, an applicant must be a victim of a “compensable crime,” a relative to a victim or a witness at the scene.
Under state law, victims can apply for assistance in the judicial district where the crime occurred. In a Sept. 11 email, a member of the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office told Searcy that her request has been tabled until prosecutors complete their review.
Funding can be awarded to help with medical, dental and mental health expenses, lost wages, loss of support to dependents, funeral expenses, repair to residential property and rekeying locks to ensure a victim’s safety, according to the Department of Public Safety’s Division of Criminal Justice website.
Last year, the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office allocated $297,114 to 109 claims from homicide victims’ families in El Paso and Teller counties, according to a 2018 federal fiscal report. That money comes from fines and surcharges collected from convicted offenders at the state and federal level, before it is distributed at the local level.
When a convicted felon in Colorado pays a fine, $163 goes toward the fund, according to a report from the state’s Office for Victims Programs. Meanwhile, $73 comes from each misdemeanor fine, $46 from a Class 1 misdemeanor traffic offense and $33 from a Class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense.
Additional funds are accrued from interest, donations and federal grants, the report stated.
Nationally, Colorado assists more victims of violent crime than 42 other states, according to the report. In 2018, 1,448 claims were paid for losses caused by violent crimes including child abuse, assault and burglary.
Searcy said she was told that no claims related to Bailey would be paid, including any requests for counseling from neighbors and children who were present.
The DA’s Office did not respond to questions about whether other victims of police shootings have been awarded funds in El Paso County.
“The people out there who saw it, they can’t even get help,” she said. “There’s children that saw it.”
Now, she doesn’t have money to visit her son’s grave.
“Right now, I’m in Decatur,” she said. “Even if I want to come back up there, I can’t.”