Darrell Havens: New report blasts "reckless" police shooting that paralyzed teen
A former police chief's analysis of a 2007 police shooting during an auto-theft sting -- one that left an unarmed nineteen-year-old suspect paralyzed for life -- contends that Arvada police detective Bill Johnson's use of deadly force in the incident was "unwarranted, unnecessary and extreme." The report, prepared in support of Darrell Havens's federal lawsuit against Johnson, also characterizes the sting operation as poorly planned and executed and claims that the detective has significantly changed his account of the incident over the course of depositions in the case.
As detailed in my 2010 feature "Wheel Man," the Havens shooting has become both a legal quagmire for law enforcement and a medical conundrum for the state prison system; now serving twenty years on convictions for theft and assault, Havens is a paraplegic in need of constant care.
Havens had a reputation as an elusive and prolific car thief when a team of eighteen police investigators from seven different agencies targeted him in a sting operation almost six years ago. The plan devised by Arvada detective Bill Johnson was to use an informant to lure Havens and a stolen Audi to a Target parking lot, pin him in with undercover vehicles, and taser him if he resisted arrest. Instead, Johnson ended up firing his .45 nine times, striking Havens with three bullets in the chest, neck and jaw.
Photo by Mark Manger Darrell Havens in 2010.
Johnson told shoot-team investigators that Havens began ramming the police vehicles in an effort to escape and that he fired to protect himself. Since the Audi was revving its engine and poorly pinned on one side as Johnson approached, he explained, he thought "this son of a bitch is about ready to run my ass over." Interviews with other officers supported Johnson's account, and Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey found that Johnson used "lawful and appropriate force."
Havens, though, has always maintained that the police began ramming his car before he could even attempt to escape. His right arm useless from a previous motorcyle accident, he claims he was already helpless and not in control of the Audi, which was sliding on ice but pinned between a truck and an SUV, when Johnson shot him.
Expert witnesses retained by Havens's attorneys have pored over witness statements and other evidence and confirmed key points of Havens's version. Last year high-profile investigator Ellis Armistead filed an affidavit in the case, contending that physical evidence at the scene contradicted Johnson's account of his actions. The latest salvo comes in a detailed report of the incident prepared by forensic consultant Tommy Burns, a former police chief of Henderson, Nevada.
Continue for more about the new Darrell Havens report, including another photo.