COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - The family of a teen fatally shot by police is calling for a "truly independent investigation" into the events leading up to officers' weapons being fired.
Relatives and associates of De'Von Bailey demanded transparency, a fair legal system and accountability as they gathered in front of the Colorado Springs Police Department headquarters late Tuesday morning. The news conference can be viewed above in its entirety.
The point of contention is whether the shooting of 19-year-old Bailey was justified.
Bailey encountered police on the evening of Aug. 3. Witnesses and the police department have given conflicting accounts on what happened next.
Police say Bailey was identified by a robbery victim as one of the two males involved in the crime. Family members have argued Bailey committed no wrongdoing and was mistakenly identified.
The official account from the Colorado Springs Police Department is that Bailey reached for a weapon in his waistband after officers approached, resulting in "at least one of the officers involved" shooting and hitting Bailey "at least one time."
Witness Elizabeth Powell told 11 News Bailey "didn’t have anything in his hands; he did not brandish any type of weapon."
Surveillance video released late last week shows Bailey running from officers and police appearing to fire at him from behind. But the video did not show the beginning of the incident, and it was neither clear if officers used their weapons before entering the view of the camera or if they were actually firing their guns in the video. The video quality was grainy and did not have sound.
In accordance with state law, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, as the outside agency, is investigating the shooting. Bailey's family argues that's not independent enough.
"There are many conflicts of interest in the relationships between the investigating agency (the El Paso County Sheriff's Office), the agency being investigated (CSPD) and the DA's office (which makes the decision to bring charges) that makes this an inappropriate request," family attorney Mari Newman said in a news release received by 11 News Monday. "An independent and impartial special prosecutor should be given the important responsibility of bringing charges against the officers involved in this tragedy."
Tuesday, attorneys and family representatives further explained why they were concerned about impartiality in the case.
"History will remind us we cannot let friends investigate friends," said Jerry Thomas, pastor of Lifting Up Jesus Church.
“The very notion of due process in our country and our Constitution requires a fair and partial investigation, and it cannot be done by the city itself. And I’m here to tell you it cannot be done by El Paso County either," attorney Darold Killmer said. "... This is a hand right in the glove, and they both move side by side.
"We need a truly independent investigation, we need an independent prosecutorial decision."
Supporters of Bailey's family have argued local law enforcement are too close, even if they are separate agencies. Some have questioned whether officers and deputies socialize outside of work.
Attorneys called on city leaders to reach out to the Colorado attorney general and ask for a grand jury.
Under Colorado law, officer-involved shootings are investigated by another law enforcement agency, and the regional district attorney's office makes the final decision on charges.
Somber and soft-spoken, Bailey's parents said they just wanted justice for their son.
"I don't want to make this about 'Black Lives Matter' or anything, because all of our lives matter. I know everyone says my son was killed by a white cop and he's a black man in the community, and yes, those are facts. But that's not what this is about. This is about what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong, and what's wrong is my son was shot in the back by law enforcement," Greg Bailey said.
The elder Bailey paused for several seconds, collecting his thoughts.
"De'Von was a great kid, great son, great man. All we want is justice for what was wrongly done to my son. I can't have him back. He's in a better place. I know that he has opened a lot of eyes in the community. I asked what you see in reports, don't pass judgments on what you don't know."
In Colorado Springs, body camera footage is typically released after the DA's office makes its judgment. The police department announced over the weekend it would be making that footage available this week despite the ongoing investigation. An exact date for the release has not been given. Attorneys Tuesday confirmed they were also not privy to the date.
Tuesday evening, the Colorado Springs Police Department released a statement in response to the rally.
“The Colorado Springs Police Department has received numerous requests for comments about statements made by the attorneys for the De’von Bailey family. We understand that the family is grieving and looking for answers to what occurred on August 3rd. We are confident that the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office will conduct a thorough and complete investigation to find those answers before turning their investigation over to the District Attorney’s Office to review. CSPD is still committed to releasing body-worn camera video of the incident by the end of the week, as long as it does not interfere with the ongoing investigation by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.”