A Colorado police officer who shot an armed Vietnam war veteran in his home after he had just killed an intruder who attacked his 11-year-old grandson will not face charges, the District Attorney said Monday.
District attorney for Colorado’s 17th Judicial District Dave Young said his office has cleared Aurora police Officer Drew Limbaugh of wrongdoing in the July death of Richard ‘Gary’ Black Jr. Black, 73.
Police said that officers believed Black was the intruder and opened fire after he didn’t follow a command to drop his gun. It later became apparent that Black had been protecting his wife and young grandson.
On the night of July 30, police responded to multiple 911 calls from Black’s home reporting a naked intruder who was trying to drown his 11-year-old grandson, CNN reported.
Police heard gunshots as they arrived and entered the property to find Black had just shot and killed the intruder, 26-year-old Dajon Harper.
Officers found the young boy and his father in the bathroom next to Harper’s dead body.
When Black did not respond to multiple requests to drop his weapon, he himself was shot by Officer Limbaugh in his living room and died from his injuries at University of Colorado Hospital.
In a 26-page letter to Aurora Police Department, the DA wrote that there was no evidence that Officer Limbaugh ‘engaged in reckless or criminally negligent conduct’.
The prosecutor wrote that Limbaugh made a ‘split-second decision based upon his assessment of the circumstances surrounding the scene.’
The decision to clear the officer of wrongdoing was based on 911 dispatch audio, footage from police body-cameras and witness interviews.
The video from Limbaugh’s body camera was the ‘most critical’ piece of evidence Young wrote. The police department on Monday released two body-camera videos of the moments just before Black was killed.
Aurora Police Department Chief Nick Metz said in a statement that Limbaugh is currently in a non-enforcement role, but an internal investigation will begin following the DA’s letter.
‘This was a heartbreaking and tragic incident. Our thoughts and prayers remain with Mr. Black’s family and those involved,’ Metz added.
Black’s family said in a statement released by their attorneys that they are ‘extremely disappointed’ in the decision.
‘Mr. Black was a Vietnam veteran who served two tours of duty, earning four separate Bronze Stars for his service, as well as a Purple Heart,’ the statement by the Rathod Mohamedbhai law firm says.
‘He was a dedicated family man, and his last moments were spent heroically defending his family against intruders in his home. As the District Attorney’s report demonstrates, Mr. Black’s death was an unnecessary tragedy.’
The killing is the second fatal shooting of an armed civilian this summer for which Officer Limbaugh – who joined the department in 2015 – has been cleared.
In June, he fired his weapon at a man who, according to Young’s letter, pointed a handgun at him and attempted to fire. The weapon was not discharged due to a malfunction.
Officer Limbaugh returned from administrative leave in the wake of the June incident just two weeks before he shot Black, CNN reported.
Young said that Limbaugh was given a psychological assessment, counseling and ‘firearms qualification’ during his leave.
The July 30 incident started when a naked Dajon Harper knocked down the Blacks’ door while Black, his wife Jeanette and his 11-year-old grandson were asleep.
Harper, who had been at a party across the street, entered the home and dragged the boy into the bathroom in reported attempt to drown him.
Jeanette Black called 911 saying the intruder was in the bathroom hurting her grandson, and that there was blood everywhere.
‘(Officers) were confronted by a very, very violent and complex situation, and within two minutes, if that, had to make some very, very critical decisions,’ Metz said in August.
Young’s letter said: ‘Officer Limbaugh stated he felt like he had to shoot the man, because it was not an option to “wait and see what happens.” He could not recall whether the man pointed the gun at him.’
The Black family said in their statement that the body camera footage shows Black wasn’t a threat to officers and officers never identified themselves as law enforcement before shooting Black.
‘The District Attorney’s report selectively emphasizes certain facts in order to justify its conclusion,’ the statement reads.