Incident that led to fatal shooting by a Denver police officer began with trouble on an RTD bus, police say

The man who fired several rounds along Lincoln Street in Capitol Hill has still not been identified.
4 min. read
Denver police investigate an officer-involved shooting at 11th Avenue and Lincoln Street. July 1, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

An incident Monday morning that ended when a Denver police officer shot and killed a man who fired several rounds in Capitol Hill began with that man getting kicked off an RTD bus, then getting into an "armed confrontation" with an RTD officer, Denver Police Division Chief of Investigations Joe Montoya said Tuesday.

Montoya said the man, who has not yet been identified, fired two rounds while he walked along Lincoln Street before he was fatally shot by a Denver police officer near 10th Avenue. Montoya said the officer fired three rounds from an AR-15 rifle. He did not say how many times the man was struck.

The officer, an 18-year veteran of the department who has not been named, has been placed on administrative leave, Montoya said. The incident was captured on the officer's body-worn camera and the video may be released at the conclusion of the investigation.

Montoya said the man's actions "were a little erratic" but he couldn't conclude whether the man was in crisis. He also said the man had a minimal criminal history. Police are still trying to locate his family and aren't sure if he was homeless.

The first call about shots fired came in at about 7:10 a.m. Montoya said the first officers arrived on the scene at about 7:13 and the incident ended with the suspect dead at about 7:15.

"It was a very quickly-evolving situation," Montoya said.

The RTD officer who first confronted the man has been in the department for three and half years. RTD Police Chief Bob Grado declined to name him.

"We have the same training as any other law enforcement agency," Grado said. "He's doing good, he's okay. Obviously, this was a very tense situation and he was challenged to something. I've been in law enforcement 32 years. I've never had to face that."

What happened:

Montoya said the trouble began when the suspect damaged a bus windshield while riding on Lincoln between Alameda and First Avenue and was asked to get off. Montoya said they do not believe the man used or showed the gun while on the bus.

Denver Police Division Chief of Investigations Joe Montoya (left) and RTD Police Chief Bob Grado during a press conference on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, at the Denver Police Crime Lab. (Esteban L. Hernandez/Denverite)

An RTD officer spotted the man near Seventh Avenue and Lincoln and confronted him. At this point, Montoya said the suspect drew his gun, prompting an "armed confrontation" between the two, though no shots were fired by either person.

"It was very crucial," Montoya said about the RTD officer's actions. "He was the eyes and ears. He bravely followed this individual in close proximity throughout this process."

Additional RTD officers asked the man to drop his gun but, Montoya said, the man did not comply. He continued walking on the west side of Lincoln Street, shooting a single round into the air near Eighth Avenue.

RTD officers pursued the man and contacted Denver police. Near Eighth Avenue and near 10th Avenue on Lincoln, Montoya said the man was seen waving the gun while he walked, putting "several people in jeopardy that were either driving by or in businesses or walking out of businesses."

Denver police confronted the man near 10th Avenue and Lincoln and RTD officers disengaged.

Montoya said a Denver police officer then moved to east-side of Lincoln Street and told the man several times to drop his gun. Montoya said the man simply said "no."

The officer took cover behind a tree trunk, Montoya said, and continued talking to the armed man. The man then turned, shot a round into the air and lowered the gun, pointing it at the officer.

The officer to fire three shots, killing him. Denver police spokesperson Doug Schepman said he was pronounced dead on the scene.

"The officer was taking a lot of things under consideration while he's on that block," Montoya said. "His concerns were traffic, foot traffic and any citizens who may be in any of these adjoining businesses along that block."

The shooting shut down portions of Lincoln Street between Seventh and 12th avenues for several hours on Monday.

Grado said the initial incident on the bus was reported by a passenger using the RTD transit watch app. It allows passengers to send messages, send pictures and provide GPS information. Grado said the app has more than 25,000 subscribers.

The incident remains under investigation. Montoya said they have yet to investigate whether the gun used in Monday's incident is connected to additional crimes.

Recent Stories