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6 fatally shot by DPD in 2016, mirroring 2015 statistics; Department responds

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Posted at 6:27 PM, Feb 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-03 20:27:25-05

DENVER — Dozens of police shootings make headlines every year, but only a fraction are fatal. Officers used deadly force six times throughout 2016 over thousands of calls.

Denver ranks 11 on a list of the top 20 cities with the most officer involved shootings. It's a list which Los Angeles tops, with 20 fatal altercations.

Although Denver appears on the list, the city's position hasn't fluctuated year-over-year from 2015, when the department also used deadly force to stop six dangerous people in the field. 

Each of the shootings — except for one that's still under investigation by the Denver District Attorney's Office (standard protocol) — has been ruled justified by Mitch Morrissey, the former Denver DA who left office in January. 

Responding officers are trained to react with deadly force in limited situations in which their lives, or the lives of those around them, are threatened. 

In rare cases and in recent years, shooting deaths of unarmed community members across the nation have made headlines, and Denver Police say that's something they're trained to avoid. 

"The Denver Police Department values the sanctity of life of everyone it serves, and of course, our goal is to have zero officer-involved shootings," Doug Schepman, a DPD spokesperson, said. "However, certain situations put officers in the difficult position of having to use a firearm to stop an imminent deadly threat to the community or officers themselves." 

One way Denver Police Department officials explain they are working to curb the number of officer involved shootings is by educating the public and engaging with the public. 

"Trust is a critical part of building relationships with the community and in being able to partner with residents to prevent crime and keep our city safe," Schepman said. 

Of those killed by officer-involved shootings in Denver last year, 50 percent were Caucasian, while 50 percent were Hispanic. Those numbers are disproportionate when considering population sizes. In 2010 — the last year data was available — only 32 percent of the city identified as Hispanic, while 69 percent identified as Caucasian. 

"With regards to the Hispanic community, the Denver Police Department is making proactive efforts towards strengthening those relationships and trust through officers' daily contacts in the neighborhoods they serve, community events, and through community outreach efforts," Schepman said.  

 

— 2016 fatal shootings — Ramone Lonergan, 32, died on Jan. 11 after he confronted police with a gun, according to accounts from officers. Police say they confronted him, eventually shooting him, after he pointed his gun at an officer. 

This shooting has been deemed justified due to threat to the officers, and others involved in the altercation. 

Gerardino Cayetano-Gonzalez, 33, died on Feb. 22 amid confrontation between he and officers after a reported burglary. An officer explained in official record that Cayetano-Gonzalez squared up, pulling a gun on the officer and firing. Eventually, he is said to have hit an officer. After a lengthy pursuit and heated confrontation, police fired upon the man, killing him.

This shooting has been deemed justified due to threat to the officers, and others involved in the altercation. 

Dion Damon, 40, died on April 12 after police say they attempted to stop him in his vehicle. After repeated commands, police say Damon pulled a gun from under his dashboard, leading police to shoot him. 

This shooting has been deemed justified due to threats to the officers. 

Terry Salazar, 49, died on Aug. 27 died as police attempted to stop him from approaching them with a knife. Police asked Salazar to put down the knife in a prolonged confrontation, but he charged at officers. He eventually approached to the point that officers shot him, ending his life. 

This shooting has been deemed justified due to threats to the officers and others involved in the altercation.

 Michael Ferguson, 21, died on Aug. 31 amid a struggle with officers who attempted to arrest him. During the struggle, officers say he attempted to pull a gun from one of their holsters, leading police to fire on him.

This shooting has been deemed justified due to threats to the officers. 

Juan Ramos, 23, died on Nov 8, and his death is still under investigation. In the altercation with police, Ramos allegedly shot an Aurora Police officer in the face before police officers from both Aurora and Denver police departments shot him. 

When the shooting has been investigated, results will be posted here. 

To learn more about shootings across the nation, and in Colorado, see the graphic below. 

 

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