Two parents in Colorado say they want prosecutors to bring criminal charges after their 22-year-old son was shot dead by police during an apparent mental health crisis in June.
Full-body camera footage released this week shows police breaking the window of Christian Glass’s car and the Clear Creek County sheriff firing five rounds at Glass while he was in his car.
The incident happened after Glass called 911 for roadside assistance in the small mountain town of Silver Plume, Colorado, about 45 miles west of Denver.
The case is renewing calls from advocates that police must prioritize de-escalation when responding to mental health crises, rather than responding with force.
Text definition: Supporters say the police are not best suited to handle the multitude of mental health-related calls they receive – appeals that advocates say are sent to law enforcement because mental health services are sorely lacking.
A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine estimated that up to 50% of fatal encounters with law enforcement involved a person with a mental illness.
In Denver and New York, behavioral health professionals are dispatched to meet 911 callers facing crises that police may not be trained to handle or may even exacerbate. .
What happened in June: Following the death of Christian Glass on June 11, the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s office released a news release stating that Glass was shot after he became “quarantined and uncooperative” and attempted to stab him. an officer when the police broke the car window to get him.
But body-cam footage shows Glass pleading with officers and at one point offering to disarm by throwing knives out of car windows.
What is happening now: Colorado’s Fifth Judicial District, which includes Clear Creek County, said it is investigating the case along with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. They plan to eventually issue a report on the shooting or present the case to a grand jury, which will decide whether to bring an indictment.
Supporters say de-escalation is needed
Police have not said whether any behavioral health professionals have been called to Glass.
The use of force and de-escalation experts who reviewed the footage say the case is an example of how when a behavioral health professional or crisis response team – programs become increasingly popular should be nationwide – could have helped de-escalate the situation and prevent Glass’ death.
“There are some red flags that really indicate potential problems,” said Seth Stoughton, a former police officer and leading expert on the use of force who reviewed parts of the footage. Stoughton testified in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer who killed George Floyd.
Siddhartha Rathod, an attorney for Christian’s parents Simon and Sally Glass, said Glass has no history of mental illness.
Senator Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, has proposed legislation to help more police departments create and fund groups that match police officers with mental health workers.
This effort will use existing COPS grants – Community Oriented Police Service funding – that can be used for a variety of local police efforts. Much of the money is available to help the community hire more staff or improve school safety.
What happened on the night of June 11?
Full-body camera footage shows the sheriff firing five rounds at Christian Glass after shooting him with bean bag bullets and shocking him with a stun gun.
Footage shows Glass refusing to step out of his car while telling officers he was “terrified” and hand-forming hearts for officers. At one point, he can also be seen praying with his hands folded and saying, “God, please, don’t let them break the window.”
When the officers broke the window, Glass appeared to panic and grabbed a knife.
Officers then shot Glass with beanbag bullets and shocked him with a stun gun before the young man turned in a chair and stabbed a knife at an officer, the footage shows. Then an officer opened fire, hitting Glass. Subsequent recordings show Glass stabbing himself before his death.
An autopsy report published by the family’s attorney showed that Glass had THC, a 0.01% blood alcohol level, and amphetamines in his system, the last drug Rathod said may have been from a ADHD prescription for Glass.
Rathod said: “Christian was going through a crisis and he called 911 for help. “And yet these officers broke through Christian’s window, shot him six times with beanbag bullets, pinned him several times from two Tasers, and then shot him five times.”
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation handles police shootings, including the Glass case, but the family wants prosecutors to bring criminal charges, Rathod said.
Families demand accountability
During a tearful news conference Tuesday, Christian’s mother, Sally Glass, displayed a Jesus pendant recovered from her son’s car engraved with the words: “Be Pray for us.”
“We have to pray for us in America to make this country a less violent country,” said Sally Glass. “I think many people would agree now that there is a systemic problem with policy control: It’s too aggressive. They escalate at every opportunity, and it looks like they’re spoiling a fight. … They should protect us, not attack us. “
Glass said her son was “petrified” and “paralyzed” with fear the night he was killed.
“I have a hole in my heart, and it will stay there until the day I die,” Glass said.
Contributors: Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY; Related press.