COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - The 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office announced a deadly officer-involved shooting in Colorado Springs was justified.
The shooting happened on Dec. 2, 2017. Police were in a struggle with Christopher Willard when authorities say Willard pulled out what looked like a gun. According to the autopsy, Willard was shot nine times and had methamphetamine in his system.
The DA sent out the results of its investigation on Tuesday. The DA says officers were trying to arrest Willard for a failure to appear on a misdemeanor theft charge. While wearing patrol uniforms, the officers tried making contact with Willard and another man standing near Willard's cars.
The following was released by the DA:
Officer Fernandes approached Willard, while Officer Toth contacted the other male. As Officer Fernandes approached, Willard walked to the front of his vehicle and stood by the open driver’s side door. Officer Fernandes mentioned to Officer Toth that there was a possible knife on the back fender of Willard’s vehicle. Later scene inspection revealed that Willard had a taped, double bladed weapon and a claw hammer on top of the vehicle’s trunk, near the driver’s side door. A couple weeks earlier, Officer Toth heard from a source that Willard had a gun in his possession – information that Officer Toth shared with Officer Fernandes as he, too, had frequent contact with Willard.
Noting that Willard appeared nervous, Officer Fernandes called out to him and tried to engage him in small talk to put him at ease. While speaking with Willard near the open driver side door, Officer Fernandes noticed a large prescription bottle on the driver’s seat and asked Willard about it, who said he’d found the bottle earlier that day. Officer Fernandes told him, “We’ll get it sorted out. You got a warrant anyway. Go ahead and turn around, put your hands behind your back.” Willard started to comply, turning around and placing one hand behind his back. As Officer Fernandes began to put handcuffs on Willard’s wrist he felt a brace or cast on his wrist, which turned out to be an arm or shin guard strapped to his inner left forearm and modified into a weapon with a screwdriver bit. Willard began to tense up and pulled his hands toward his waist. At this time, Officer Toth came to assist in the arrest. As the officers tried to handcuff Willard, he said to Officer Toth, “I have something.” The officers attempted to pin him against the driver’s side door, giving him multiple commands to put his hands behind his back, and then ordered him to get on the ground, but Willard twisted out of the officers’ grips. Willard continued reaching toward his waistband and, despite multiple maneuvers to bring him under control, he remained upright and combative. During the ensuing struggle, Officer Fernandes yelled warnings to Officer Toth that Willard was reaching. Officer Toth yelled for Willard to get down and warned him that he was about to be tased. Officer Toth tripped and fell backwards on the ground in front of Willard. Christopher Willard spun around and Officer Fernandes said he saw “the barrel of a gun pointing at me.” Immediately after yelling, “get back,” Officer Fernandes opened fire. Officer Fernandes yelled, “don’t move” at Willard, who was lying on the ground on his back, a few feet from Officer Toth, who was still on the ground. Officer Fernandes saw Willard lift his head and raise his gun. Officer Toth thought Willard was going to shoot Officer Fernandes. Both officers fired at Willard. The officers fired 13 rounds.
WIllard was pronounced dead at Memorial Hospital. The gun in Willard's possession was a "realistic looking semi-automatic styled bb gun" according to the DA. The DA justified the shooting stating it was reasonable to believe the gun in Willard's possession was a legitimate firearm.
ORIGINAL STORY 17/17/17:
Police were trying to arrest a man on a misdemeanor warrant when he fought them off and pulled out a gun.
What on the onset appeared a routine arrest ended with officers firing their weapons at the suspect.
These are the latest findings from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, which is investigating the shooting because it involved Springs police. It's standard procedure in any officer-involved shooting for an outside agency to lead the investigation.
According to EPSO, officers encountered the suspect in the area of South Nevada Avenue and East Navajo Street around 6 Saturday night. When they tried to take him into custody on an outstanding warrant, he reportedly started fighting them. He was shot after law enforcement says he drew a handgun. After further investigation, the gun the man had was a BB pistol that resembled a real gun. The man shot has been identified as Christopher Willard. Police were wearing body cameras at the time of the shooting and is being reviewed as part of the investigation.
Willard was wanted for an outstanding misdemeanor warrant for theft, police said Wednesday.
Willard survived the shooting long enough to reach the hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries. The officers involved in the incident sustained minor injuries.
The officers were identified Thursday as Christopher Fernandes and Tracy Toth.
Those officers are now on paid leave, also standard procedure.