On Thursday, the Colorado Springs Police Department released bodycam video footage of the police murder of 19-year-old De’Von Bailey. By Friday, a police department spokesperson announced that the two officers responsible for his death will return to active duty, indicating that it is unlikely that any charges will be brought.
Bailey was shot to death on August 3. He was the 537th person to be killed by police in the US in 2019, according to records collected by the Washington Post. Thirty-three more people have been killed by cops in the two weeks since his death, bringing the total up to 570.
According to initial police reports, Sgt. Alan Van’t Land and Officer Blake Evenson responded to a report of an armed personal robbery on East Fountain Boulevard in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The officers identified Bailey and his cousin as suspects, based on the robbery victim’s general description of two black men in their late teens who were wearing shorts.
After officers interviewed the two boys, the first press release from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office stated, “During the encounter, one suspect reached for a firearm. At least one officer fired a shot at the suspect.” Bailey died of gunshot injuries at a local hospital.
The material released Thursday includes the initial dispatch and the bodycam footage of both officers, which expose the official narrative.
In the video, Bailey and his cousin appear terrified upon being approached by the officers in the middle of a residential street. They repeatedly answer the officers’ questions about their identity, indicating that they do not go by the names of the reported suspects. Bailey appears to place something small in his pocket, before both teens follow commands to put their hands up.
Van’t Land explains that they will be searched for weapons, and the other officer approaches Bailey from the back. When Bailey sprints down the street, the officers yell, “Keep your hands up!” He continues to run but does not give any indication of reaching for a gun or threatening officers. Sgt. Van’t Land then fires eight shots, four of which hit Bailey in the back and elbow, after which he falls to the ground face down.
While the wounds are gushing with blood onto the pavement and he moans in pain, they pull his arms behind his back and search for a gun. After feeling an object in his pants, they cut his shorts off with a blade and retrieve it. It is unclear whether the object was in fact a gun.
The footage ends before Bailey receives any medical attention. He was reportedly transferred to a local hospital, where he died within hours from his wounds.
Both officers were placed on standard administrative leave while the county sheriff’s department carried out an investigation, but those findings were turned over to the District Attorney’s office on Thursday. Though the investigation findings are now under review by the DA office for “several months,” it is highly unlikely that the officers will be charged, especially now that they have returned to active duty. The county sheriff and local police department continue to reiterate that the officers felt threatened, based on their claims that Bailey was reaching for a weapon as he ran away.
Bailey’s family is demanding an independent investigation into the circumstances of the shooting. They are arguing that the police department, sheriff’s office and district attorney’s office are “friends” and therefore cannot carry out an objective investigation.
Their attorney, Darold Killmer, spoke to reporters on Thursday after the footage was released. “The police appear to argue that they shot Mr. Bailey because they feared he was going for a gun at the time. We think the video shows otherwise.” Killmer continued, “Mr. Bailey was trying desperately to flee from the police, and he did not have a weapon in his hand. And had not shown any weapon when he was shot in the back and killed.”