Oleg Gidenko shooting justified because driving constituted deadly force, DA's office says
Although it hasn't gotten the publicity of alleged police misconduct involving the likes of Michael DeHerrera and Alex Landau, the March death of Oleg Gidenko is frequently cited by reform-minded protesters, who say Gidenko was unarmed when Aurora cops plugged him in the back of the head. But that's not the way the tale is told by the 18th Judicial District DA's office, which has now cleared two officers in the shooting.
At the scene.
Just shy of midnight on March 20, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Jason Siers, who penned the aforementioned letter, the Aurora Police Department received a call from the owner of Kona Auto, a repair business on Laredo Street. He reported seeing three males inside a fenced area at his business putting something in a truck -- possibly a car door.
Four cops responded to the call and soon saw two vehicles -- a white Toyota Tundra and a gray Toyota Corolla -- in the spot described by the owner. When they issued orders to the suspects -- Gidenko, Rusian Giriyev and Yevgenity Strastar -- the trio is said to have hopped into the Tundra and driven in the direction of Officer Chris Falco. When Falco attempted to move out of the way, Siers writes that Gidenko, who was behind the wheel, changed direction to aim the vehicle at him, prompting Falco to fire his gun in their direction.
At that point, a second cop, Officer Jason McIrvin, says Gidenko turned and drove toward him, causing him to start firing, too. Before long, McIrvin was struck by the Tundra and fell to the ground, where he wound up with a head laceration, as Falco continued pulling the trigger. Shortly thereafter, the Tundra crashed into another vehicle. Gidenko had been shot in the head and died from his injury, while Straystar was also struck but survived.
Based on the officers' stories and other physical evidence at the scene, Siers concludes that the conduct of Falco and McIrvin wasn't criminal. After all, he writes, they "reasonably believed their lives were in imminent danger and were acting in self-defense." He adds that because "Mr. Gidenko's driving constituted an imminent use of deadly physical force," the officers "were justified in using deadly physical force to protect themselves and each other."
How complete is this narrative? Hard to say -- but the City of Aurora has already paid a settlement estimated at $150,000 to Gidenko's survivors.
Look below to see the complete Gidenko letter, as well as a second one clearing the Aurora police sergeant involved in a less controversial fatal shooting -- the death of Daniel Garcia, who died in a gunfight after taking a family hostage.
More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Police misconduct: Denver ranks number one in terms of excessive force complaints."