Friday, July 9, 2010

Denver cops cleared in fatal shooting

A man shot to death by Denver police on June 28 had attacked a paralyzed man in a wheelchair just minutes before and stolen that man's air pistol, the Denver district attorney's office said today.

It was that air pistol, a Crosman 77 semi-automatic CO2, which looks like a Glock G19 compact pistol, that 26-year-old Arturo Enriquez pulled on two police officers before he was killed, said Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey in a letter clearing the two officers who shot Enriquez.

Morrissey said that Enriquez, who was born in Mexico City and has 15 aliases and an extensive police record, attacked the man in a wheelchair about 12:30 a.m. in his apartment building at 3130 W. Louisiana Avenue.

Enriquez and a companion had followed the man into the apartment building and up to his fourth floor apartment. There, as the man unlocked his apartment door, they tried to push into the apartment. The paralyzed man immediately pulled his key out of door lock.

Morrissey said Enriquez and his companion momentarily left, but then came back to the wheelchair, where the man in the wheelchair pulled the air pistol.

Enriquez grabbed the air pistol and hit the man in the face with it. Enriquez then punched the paralyzed man, pushed him against the wall, and threw him to the floor.

As Enriquez and his companion left, the companion laughed and said, "That's what you get, cripple."

Enriquez picked up the air pistol. The paralyzed man told police he carries it for protection.

Several minutes later, police officers Michael Walsh and Daniel Morehead found Enriquez about a block away.

Enriquez pulled out a screwdriver and advanced on Morehead but threw the screwdriver to the side, said Morrissey. Morehead then kicked Enriquez, knocking him to the ground.

At that point, Walsh arrived. Almost immediately, Enriquez raised his shirt, pulled out the air pistol and raised it toward the officers. Both Walsh and Morehead fired six shots, killing Enriquez.

In clearing the two officers, Morrissey noted Enriquez's long criminal record.

His arrests include assault, disturbing the peace, disobeying a lawful order, shoplifting, first-degree criminal trespass and destruction of private property.

Morrissey said that the officers' decision to fire on Enrique was justified because he pulled a handgun on them.

"The fact that the handgun turned out to be a Crosman 77 air pistol, and not the more powerful 'firearm' it resembled, is of no significance in finding the officers' conduct to be justifiable," said Morrissey.

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