Trial of US officers charged with death of Christchurch-born man to go ahead

The man's family lawyers said they were "pleased but not surprised" the criminal charges against the former officers would proceed.
The man's family lawyers said they were "pleased but not surprised" the criminal charges against the former officers would proceed. Photo credit: Newshub

By Jean Edwards for RNZ

The family of a Christchurch-born man shot dead by United States police is pleased two officers charged over his killing will face trial after a Colorado judge threw out their bid to have the case dismissed.

Fifth Judicial District judge Catherine Cheroutes ruled there was enough evidence to support the charges against officers Andrew Buen and Kyle Gould, after Christian Glass was shot five times in his car during an apparent mental health crisis near Denver last June.

A grand jury indicted Buen, who is facing charges of second-degree murder, reckless endangerment and official misconduct, and Gould on charges of criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment - both men lost their jobs.

In a statement released by the Glass family's lawyers, they said they were "pleased but not surprised" that the criminal charges against the former officers would proceed.

"The Glass family believes that the evidence is overwhelming that these Clear Creek County officers are responsible for the murder of their beautiful son, and they fully support the District Attorney's efforts to hold Buen and Gould accountable for their crimes," they said.

"However, the Glass family remains frustrated that none of the other officers involved in Christian's murder have suffered any consequences. Christian needed intervention and protection from the other law enforcement officers who were on the scene and failed to stop the unlawful escalation of force against Christian.

"The Glass family strongly believes that officers from Georgetown, Idaho Springs, and the State of Colorado should also be held accountable for their individual roles in the killing of Christian."

Christian Glass was born in Christchurch but moved to the US with his parents at the age of 10.

On the night he died, the 22-year-old had called 911 for roadside assistance when his car got stuck on a small pile of rocks near Silver Plume in Clear Creek County and was expressing paranoid, delusional and hallucinatory thoughts.

Distressing body camera footage shows a terrified Glass's final moments, including police smashing the window of the car when he did not heed their demands to get out.

Officers then fired bean bag rounds, tasered Glass and shot him dead.

He had offered to throw out a knife he had with him, but police told him not to.

Buen was the officer in charge and fired the fatal shots, while his shift supervisor Gould was monitoring the events remotely through his deputies' bodycams.

Judge Cheroutes said the body camera footage supported Buen's indictment on the second-degree murder charge.

"There is no question, based upon the visual evidence and the testimony regarding the autopsy report, that the defendant caused the death of Mr Glass. The defendant shot Mr Glass five times in the chest. The defendant and indeed any reasonable person would be aware that such conduct would be practically certain to cause death. There is probable cause to believe that the defendant knowingly caused the death of Mr Glass," she said.

Cheroutes said there was also probable cause to believe that Buen "intentionally and maliciously" caused harm to Glass by "shooting and killing him".

"The malicious intent can be inferred from the aggressive demeanour and the ultimate action of the defendant shooting Mr Glass as seen in the bodycam footage,'' she said.

Cheroutes said the indictment noted Gould authorised the extraction of Christian Glass from his car.

"The defendant was aware of Mr Glass's mental health state and his paranoia; the course of the interaction between various law enforcement officers and Mr Glass; the nature of the knife Mr Glass had in his possession which law enforcement had told him not to throw out of the car; the lack of any firearm in Mr Glass's possession, and the determination that this was a mental health situation, where there was not probable cause or reasonable suspicion to believe a crime had been committed," she said.

"There is sufficient support for a determination that the defendant consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk that Mr Glass would be injured or killed if he were extracted from his vehicle and that as the supervisor who both authorised the extraction and was monitoring the situation, he engaged in conduct which created the risk of serious bodily injury to Mr Glass."

Cheroutes dismissed Buen's claim there was "prosecutorial misconduct" and a lack of "probable cause", along with Gould's lack of probable cause claim and his argument the indictment was insufficient.