Protesters march to Denver DA’s office over police killing of William DeBose

Beth McCann’s office announced it would not charge the officer involved in the shooting.
3 min. read
Walter DeBose shouts during a demonstration against racism and police brutality and what he insists was the murder of his son William at the hands of Denver police.
Hart Ban Denburg/CPR News

Posted 11:30 a.m. | Updated 9:20 p.m.

Just a few hours after he learned of District Attorney Beth McCann's decision not to bring charges against the Denver police officer who shot and killed his son, Walter DeBose stood outside her office in downtown, arched his back, cupped his hand to his mouth, and shouted into the sky.

"F- Beth McCann," DeBose and hundreds of other protesters yelled in unison.

"My son was a beautiful young man," DeBose said of William DeBose, prior to the march from the state Capitol to McCann's office nearby in the Wellington Webb building Thursday afternoon.

Police say they saw DeBose speeding down I-70 and then I-25 and pursued him late on May 1. After an unsuccessful traffic stop, DeBose eventually stopped in the parking lot of the Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales Branch Library on West Colfax.

Demonstrators protest the death of William DeBose outside the Denver DA's office after marching from the Capitol June 18, 2020.
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

Police say DeBose initially complied with officers before running back toward his car, when he pulled out a handgun and pointed it at them. That's when Police Corporal Ethan Antonson shot him four times.

But the DeBose family and its attorney, Birk Baumgartner, dispute that version of events. Citing body camera footage, Walter DeBose said it appears his son is throwing his gun away. Baumgartner said officers shot DeBose in the back of the leg and his chest from the side. An autopsy released by the family supports that claim.

In a letter to Police Chief Paul Pazen explaining her office's decision, McCann wrote that DeBose did point a gun at officers.

DeBose tried to evade police, Baumgartner said, because he didn't want to be arrested for violating a restraining order against him. Baumgartner said he and his wife, who were together in the car the night of the shooting, had gotten into an argument some time prior. That resulted in DeBose being arrested and the order, but Baumgartner said the two willingly had ignored it.

DeBose family attorney Birk Baumgartner outside the Capitol Thursday June 18, 2020.
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

DeBose's wife, Sierra Martinez-Griego, has also disputed the police department's account. She also addressed the crowd Thursday outside McCann's office.

"It's tragic that we lost him this way," she said. "He was a really good friend, a father, a son, a brother."

"He means a lot," she continued, before her voice trailed off.

"We love you!" someone in the crowd shouted back.

Before the march, Martinez-Griego told Denverite the weeks since his death have been an emotional rollercoaster.

The late William DeBose's wife Sierra Martinez speaks to supporters outside the Denver DA's office.
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

"Some days I'm expecting him to come back home," she said.

In her press release Thursday, McCann said she extended her "deepest sympathy" to DeBose's family. She said she told them about her decision privately before announcing it publicly.

But Walter DeBose said he only learned of her decision when I told him, around 3:15 p.m. Thursday.

"Well that makes a big difference. I didn't know that," he said, adding, "I'm shocked at her."

Baumgartner said earlier Thursday that the family declined to meet with McCann today, and that they intend to file a civil lawsuit against the city.

This story has been updated. 

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