Update: Denver cops say man they killed at funeral home rammed cruisers, injured officer
Update below: Back in March, we told you about a report showing that officer-involved shootings have been on the rise in Denver during recent years -- a trend the Office of the Independent Monitor found troubling.
The scene outside the Romero Funeral Home yesterday. More photos and a video below.
The numbers serve as backdrop to separate incidents that took place within hours of each other yesterday. In them, Denver police officers shot and killed suspects, with the second gun-down taking place outside a funeral home hosting a viewing the dead man, later ID'd as Joseph Valverde, had planned to attend -- a fact that angered mourners who interrupted a press conference to decry DPD actions.
The first shooting is the least controversial -- at least thus far. Official news of what happened came via this DPD tweet:
An image of the first shooting courtesy of 9News.
Before long, Denver Police Chief Robert White was on the scene to explain the situation to representatives of the media, as documented in this DPD twitpic.
Chief White addressing media pic.twitter.com/weW5qAon13— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) July 2, 2014
The basics: At around 2:45 p.m. near the aforementioned intersection of Platte River Drive and Florida, officers were taking part in an undercover drug bust reportedly involving cocaine. As the cops moved in to make the arrest, the department maintains that the suspect pulled a handgun, at which point uniformed officers opened fire.
The man was pronounced dead a short time later. Thus far, his name has not been released.
Mere hours later, the DPD Twitter feed sent out another note about an officer-involved shooting:
After the shooting at the Romero Funeral Home, as seen in a 7News image.
The second shooting took place outside the Romero Funeral Home, where 7News reports that a thus-far-unidentified 21-year-old man arrived for a viewing.
The man also happened to be wanted on two felony warrants and had a history of car-theft busts. DPD spokesman Commander Matt Murray said officers had followed him into the funeral-home parking lot and a suspicious movement in the car had prompted them to unload their weapons on him.
Another image from outside the Romero Funeral Home.
This act so incensed those attending the viewing that additional officers had to be called to keep the peace.
At a press conference afterward, Murray acknowledged there was no indication the man was actually armed -- and two mourners who interrupted the spokesman's address said a lot more.
"The cops came and killed him at a funeral home!" shouted one man, holding a child. "He's mourning his best friend's loss! You guys rode up and shot him in the parking lot. We were standing out there, and you shot him over there, guys, and our kids were out there, too!"
The press conference in which a mourner angrily interrupted DPD spokesman Commander Matt Murray.
"Almost ran over a little girl!" interjected a second bystander.
Asked the first man: "Is that how you guys do it now?"
Shootings like these aren't routine, but they're no longer as rare as they once were. Here's a graphic from the aforementioned Independent Monitor's report showing an increase in shootings by the Denver Police Department and Denver Sheriff's Office over the previous five years, from three in 2009 to eleven in 2013:
In our previous post, we added the following context:
The report argues that all of the 2013 shootings except one fell within departmental standards. But the monitor's office expresses concern "about a possible pattern of deadly force encounters involving individuals who appeared to be in mental-health crisis. By our estimation, five of the nine DPD shootings and one of the two DSD shootings in 2013 involved individuals engaged in erratic behavior that suggested that mental illness may have played a role in their encounter with police."A mental-health episode doesn't seem to be at the heart of the funeral-home incident. But expect questions to be raised about whether officers pulled triggers too quickly.
The monitor's office hasn't made specific recommendations regarding the mental-health issue. Instead, staffers met with Denver Police Chief Robert White to encourage him to investigate and address the topic, and he pledged to do so.
Update: Moments ago, the Denver Police Department began tweeting information from a news conference with Chief Robert White about yesterday's pair of police shootings. The information about the first incident, which took place during a drug operation, more or less matches details that had emerged previously. However, new info has been provided about the second shooting -- specifically that the suspect, identified by the Denver coroner's office as Joseph Valverde, a man with a long rap sheet -- allegedly tried to ram a police vehicle with a stolen car and injured an officer in the process. Here's the tweet string:
Yesterday, at 6pm a call came in for an officer-involved shooting in the 4700 block of Tejon. #4700Tejon— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) July 3, 2014
Officers had been trying to locate the suspect all day for two outstanding felony warrants for auto theft. #4700Tejon— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) July 3, 2014
Suspect was a prolific auto thief, who was suspected to be involved in several auto thefts. #4700Tejon— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) July 3, 2014
Officers spotted suspect, followed him to 4700 block of Tejon. In attempt 2 contact him, officers attempted 2 block him into parking space.— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) July 3, 2014
The suspect, driving a stolen car, rammed officers' cars in the process of trying to elude them, also striking an officer. #4700Tejon— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) July 3, 2014
The officer suffered injury to her leg, and was transported to an area hospital. #4700Tejon— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) July 3, 2014
After officer was hit w/car, 4 officers fired at suspect 4 protection of the officer who was hit, other officers & the public. #4700Tejon— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) July 3, 2014
The suspect was a 21 year old male, with a criminal history, we believe he has gang affiliations. #4700Tejon— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) July 3, 2014
At the time of the shooting the suspect was driving a stolen vehicle, which had been stolen June 25 in the Metro Area. #4700Tejon— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) July 3, 2014
The suspect had 2 outstanding felony warrants for auto theft. #4700Tejon— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) July 3, 2014
The coroner's office will release the identity of both suspects when they have been positively identified & next of kin has been notified.— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) July 3, 2014
Look below to see a 7News video about the two shootings, followed by the Office of the Independent Monitor report.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our News archive circa March 13: "Officer-involved shootings up in monitor's report on Denver law enforcers."