Body-camera footage shows Colorado police shot and killed a young man who had called 911 for help after getting his car stuck on a dirt road, despite him never leaving his vehicle's driver seat.
Christian Glass, 22, was killed on June 11 by a Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office deputy during a mental health crisis, his parents said. He had called 911 after getting his SUV stuck and was hoping for assistance getting it pushed out. But over the course of the next hour, the responding officers threatened him, tased him, shot him with beanbags, and finally shot and killed him.
Glass’ family has retained lawyers to help fight for justice for their son. The lawyers, Siddhartha Rathod and Qusair Mohamedbhai, provided VICE News with several angles of the body-camera footage showing the shooting and a statement saying, “from beginning to end, the officers escalated and proactively initiated force.”
“There was no need to threaten him with force; to draw guns; to break his car window; to fire beanbag rounds from a close distance; to tase him; to shoot him dead,” the lawyers wrote. “From beginning to end, the officers on the scene acted unconscionably and inhumanely.”
The lawyers also provided VICE News with the 911 call Glass made for help, which he ended by apologizing to the dispatcher, saying, “You’re my light right now. I’m really scared. I’m sorry.” Glass told the dispatcher that he had two knives and a hammer in his vehicle—something he carried with him as he was an amateur geologist—but he was adamant he wasn’t dangerous.
The bodycam footage shows the incident, which lasts about an hour and ten minutes, beginning with two police officers confronting Glass who has driven his red SUV slightly off the road. The officers repeatedly tell him to get out of the car, but Glass refuses to do so and tells the officers he’s “terrified” as they threaten to break his window. Glass offers to throw the knives and hammer out of the window, but the officers tell him not to do that and instead get out of the car.
As the officers get on either side of the vehicle and become agitated, Glass can be seen holding his hands up in the air to show he's unarmed. Glass told them the only way “I can be safe” was to remain in the car.
Eventually officers from five different branches arrive on scene. Several times Glass made a heart-like shape with his hands toward the officers, and at one point he blew kisses at the cops.
Colorado State Patrol contacted the officers on the scene and asked what “their plan is", adding "if he’s committed no crime and is not suicidal, homicidal, or a great danger, then there is no reason to contact him." Despite hearing this, officers continued to try to get Glass out of the vehicle.
Just over an hour into the situation, the officers on the scene decided to breach the vehicle, and one of the commanding officers there told Glass it “was time for the night to move on.” The officers smashed the glass on the passenger-side window. Glass picked up one of his knives as the police upped their aggression and several officers, including one standing on the hood of the car, trained their weapons on him. Through the passenger-side window, Glass was shot with a beanbag gun several times and began to flail in the SUV.
“Someone tase his ass,” an officer is heard saying in the video. “Someone tase him!”
An officer shoots Glass with a taser through the passenger window and the young man begins to scream and shake while holding the knife. One officer tells Glass he “can still save himself” if he drops the knife. Glass begins to yell “Lord, hear me.” As he flails around in the seat once more, an officer fires his handgun five times.
The officers then break the window and drag Glass' body from the vehicle. He died on the scene. Shortly after killing Glass, the police department released a statement saying he was shot while attempting to “stab” an officer while reaching over his seat and through a back window. They did not respond to a request for comment.
In the body-camera footage provided, it does not appear that Glass ever moved from the driver's seat of his vehicle.
“These officers took a gentle, peaceful soul and extinguished it simply because it was ‘time to move the night on,’” the Glass family lawyers wrote in their statement.
Glass’ family held a press conference on Sept. 13 in which his parents described him as a “gentle and polite boy” and a talented athlete, artist, and cook. The 22-year-old was born in New Zealand and held United States, New Zealand, and U.K. citizenship. Glass’ father said he is “very proud of what he had done with his short life” and that he left the family with “a million memories.” His mother said he “gave the best hugs” and “embraced the beauty in nature.”
His parents have strongly disputed the way police described how the situation occurred. They said their son was "petrified by fear" and was in the midst of a mental health crisis. An autopsy report shows Glass was not intoxicated or on any drugs.
“It has been three months since Christian’s killing,” said his father. “We have been more than patient and have made no public statement before now. Christian’s killing is a stain on Clear Creek County and Colorado. It was a murder by Colorado officials.”
“They should be protecting us, not attacking us.”
“The act of simply calling 911 for help cannot be a death sentence.”
The family is calling upon “the Fifth Judicial District, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, and the United States Attorney General’s Office to prosecute these officers to the fullest extent of the law.” The family’s lawyers allege the officer who went to investigate Glass’ death intentionally muted his body camera. They say that the officer who shot and killed Glass was back out on the street in days—something Glass' mother dubbed "disgusting."
Clear Creek County District Attorney Heidi McCollum released a statement on Tuesday saying she was investigating the incident with the help of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
Glass is but the latest in a long string of deaths in which the person who called authorities for help was killed.
“Our country cannot continue to tolerate this level of extreme violence by law enforcement,” Glass’ family lawyers wrote. “The act of simply calling 911 for help cannot be a death sentence.”
Correction 9/16: A previous version of this story listed the incorrect date for Christian Glass’ killing. The copy has been changed, and we regret the error.
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