DENVER — Six bystanders were injured when three Denver police officers fired their weapons at a man the department says flashed a gun at officers early Sunday morning in downtown Denver, but a police commander said he was not sure if they will be able to figure out if victims were shot or hit with ricochets or other debris.
Additionally, the three officers who fired their guns did not notify the people in the area they were going to fire their guns, nor tell them to clear the area beforehand as they did not have time to, Denver Police Department Commander Matt Clark said at a news conference Wednesday morning.
“Did something go wrong? Yeah, six people who additionally got injured shouldn’t have gotten injured that night,” Clark said, adding that the shooting justifies a review of the department’s tactics during the shooting.
Clark repeated what the arrest affidavit for Jordan Waddy, 21, relayed regarding his movements early Sunday morning around 1:35 a.m., and showed still images from officers’ body camera that he said showed Waddy had pulled a handgun out of his front jacket pocket and flashed the muzzle at two Denver police officers after they confronted him following what police have called an altercation with another man.
He said one officer fired four shots at Waddy, another fired two shots, and a third officer fired one shot at Waddy. All three officers have been with the department since 2019 and are on administrative leave. Our news partners at The Denver Post reported Wednesday morning the police shooting caused the most injuries of any police shooting in Colorado since at least 2010.
Clark said that the officers saw the muzzle of the gun pointed at them, but also that Waddy was holding the gun by its slide – not its handle where the trigger would be easily accessible – when he apparently pulled it out of his jacket and flashed the muzzle toward officers as he was pulling it across his body.
Clark reiterated what the affidavit says, that one round was found in the chamber of the Rock Island 1911 10mm handgun officers found at the scene and seven rounds were in the magazine.
But the department did not show the body camera video showing this action, only a few still images. Clark said the officers attested they had feared for their lives or the lives of their fellow officers, so they fired their weapons.
In a statement, the police department said it did not release the body camera video on Wednesday to protect the investigation, which they often say is the case in police shootings.
"To elaborate upon the department's rationale for declining to release body worn camera video at this time, the department is attempting to balance the public interest in this incident through the release of the still images while protecting the integrity of the ongoing investigation, review of the officers' actions by DPD and the Denver DA's Office and the pending prosecution of the suspect," the department said in a statement as they released slides from the news conference.
Clark said the body camera would eventually be released but did not say when, as the investigation into the shooting will be ongoing for some time.
The shooting is being investigated by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Colorado State Patrol, the Denver District Attorney’s Office, and DPD, with oversight from the Office of the Independent Monitor.
Clark reiterated that investigators have not found any evidence that Waddy ever fired the weapon they say he pulled.
Clark said that officers believed they saw Waddy with his hand in his pocket during the altercation and afterward, and so they believed he could have a weapon and could pose a danger, which is why they started tracking him. He said they were not aware he was on parole at the time. Clark said he could not conclude which officers’ rounds hit Waddy out of the seven shots that were fired.
Several officers there turned their body cameras on, Clark said. Two of the officers who fired shots activated their body cameras immediately after shooting their weapons, which he said captured the 30-second buffer beforehand. Clark said the department’s policy is that officers should have their body cameras running when confronting an armed suspect. The buffer did not capture audio. The third officer had his camera running the whole time, Clark said.
Clark said it took about three seconds for Waddy to pull the firearm.
Clark said the third officer, who fired one shot, had his gun trained on Waddy. He said that in the background of the shooting were a brick wall and an empty Larimer Beer Hall, and that potential debris or ricochets from the wall or a metal fence could have caused injuries to the bystanders.
He said the six bystanders not including Waddy who were injured in the shooting were all adults who suffered the following injuries: a man with a serious arm injury, a woman with a serious shoulder and arm injury, a woman with a graze wound to her leg, a man with a graze wound to his foot, and a man with a “burn” to his chest. The last man was the one who came forward to a hospital on Tuesday, according to Clark.
Two of those victims — Yekalo Weldehiwet and Bailey Alexander — said in interviews Wednesday that doctors confirmed both had been shot.
Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said the department “will continue to provide outreach and support, financial and emotional.”
“We are responsible for our response, which we will review in all three cases. We’re a learning organization and will try to improve. The focus in all of these incidents is to keep the community safe,” Pazen said.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock called for patience in a statement released Wednesday evening.
“I understand there are still a lot of questions and that people are looking for more information regarding a series of incidents over the past week. Any time our officers deploy their weapons in the line of duty, there are comprehensive investigations that must follow long-established legal procedures. I am asking our residents for patience as this process takes place and as we work to provide answers. I am receiving regular briefings from the Department of Safety and can assure you this process is well underway," the statement read.
This is a developing news story and will be updated.