Railroad police shoot and kill man during arrest near the National Western Complex

While it’s close to the homeless shelter set up during the pandemic, Denver police says unhoused people living nearby haven’t impacted crime rates in the area.

Denver police investigate an officer-involved shooting by a railway near the National Western Center. Aug. 15, 2020.

Denver police investigate an officer-involved shooting by a railway near the National Western Center. Aug. 15, 2020.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
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A Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Police officer shot and killed a man close to railroad tracks by the National Western Complex Saturday morning.

Denver Police Division Chief Ron Thomas said the officer contacted a man who was trespassing on BNSF property shortly before 9 a.m. He was walking by the railway south of the intersection of 46th Avenue and National Western Drive.

Thomas said the officer ran the man’s name and found he had an outstanding felony warrant. When the officer tried to take the man into custody, Thomas said, the man “somehow accessed a knife and began stabbing the officer. The officer was able to access his own handgun and discharge that weapon, striking and killing the individual.” Thomas said both the man and the officer are white adults.

Denver police investigate an officer-involved shooting by a railway near the National Western Center. Aug. 15, 2020.

Denver police investigate an officer-involved shooting by a railway near the National Western Complex. Aug. 15, 2020.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Denver Police Division Chief Ron Thomas held a press conference as officers investigate an officer-involved shooting by a railway near the National Western Center. Aug. 15, 2020.

Denver Police Division Chief Ron Thomas held a press conference as officers investigate an officer-involved shooting by a railway near the National Western Complex. Aug. 15, 2020.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Colorado State Police, who monitors BNSF radio channels, responded after shots were fired. DPD arrived soon after and have since taken over the investigation as an officer-involved shooting. DPD will present the case to District Attorney Beth McCann’s office.

Thomas said the BNSF officer was in critical, but stable, condition as of Saturday afternoon.

“It would be unfair to generalize that some of the upticks in crime that we’re seeing are specifically related to the homeless population,” Thomas said.

In April, the city opened an emergency homeless shelter at the National Western Complex as the coronavirus pandemic became a nationwide problem. It’s within walking distance of the site of Saturday’s shooting.

While Thomas said police have dealt with “a number of issues related to individuals experiencing homelessness” in the area, he said he didn’t know whether the man shot by the BNSF officer was unhoused.

A man who said he slept in the woods Friday night walks toward the homeless shelter set up a the National Western Center. Aug. 15, 2020.

A man who said he slept in the woods Friday night walks toward the homeless shelter set up at the National Western Complex. Aug. 15, 2020.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Mattresses and couches are gathered beneath an I-70 overpass between railroad tracks and the National Western Center. Aug. 15, 2020.

Mattresses and couches are gathered beneath an I-70 overpass between railroad tracks and the National Western Complex. Aug. 15, 2020.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

A man passing the scene, who said he slept outside Friday night because he missed the shelter’s 8 p.m. check-in deadline, said people do camp beneath the bridge. Couches and mattresses were strewn below a nearby I-70 overpass. Rodney Stapp, who has lived in the shelter for almost two weeks, said things there have been peaceful. He did not think the stabbing and the shooting on the railway was related to activity at the shelter.

Chief Thomas told Denverite it would be unfair to say the nearby shelter has impacted crime rates in the area. Citywide, violent crime has spiked in recent months. Thomas said the rise is most likely related to the pandemic.

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