Families of Colorado men who have died at the hands of law enforcement marched and their names in Denver Friday night: William DeBose, Elijah McClain, Michael Marshall.
William DeBose is the most recent case, a 21-year-old Black man who was shot and killed by Denver police on May 1.
Hundreds marched and called for police to be defunded.
“We want the police defunded and we want the police disarmed, but we understand that the police’s very role is racist and violent,” said Lilian House, with the Party for Socialism and LIberation which worked with the DeBose family and others to organize the event. “So short of moving beyond this system, I don’t think we’re done.”
William DeBose’s father Walter DeBose praised the forceful but peaceful message.
“I do not believe in violence and damage. I believe that when you do this, just like this PSL party (Party for Socialism and Liberation) here, they’re doing it without violence without damage,” DeBose said.
At one point hundreds of marchers stopped in front of a home organizers said belongs to Denver District Attorney Beth McCann. They said their concern about police reform extends to the D.A.’s office. Standing in the bed of a pickup truck, organizers and attendees took turns at the mic, leading chants and calling for change specifically from McCann. They chanted “If we don’t get no justice, then Beth don’t get no peace.”
The incident that led to the death of William DeBose happened around 10:30 p.m. on May 1 when officers in the Denver Police Department’s gang unit noticed a speeding vehicle on Interstate 70. They called in the department’s helicopter to assist them in trailing the car as it exited the highway onto Colfax Avenue. After an unsuccessful traffic stop, they started to follow the car again. It stopped in the parking lot of the Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Branch Library. DeBose and a woman left the vehicle.
DeBose initially complied with officers but then took off running back toward his car, they said, prompting police to chase him. They said DeBose pulled a handgun out of his shorts and pointed it at them. Officers opened fire, striking DeBose multiple times.
Police said they recovered a loaded semi-automatic 9mm next to DeBose. He later died at a hospital.
DPD has not released body camera footage of the shooting, which is being investigated, despite calls from DeBose’s family and its attorney to do so.
Blake Simony contributed to this story.