AURORA | Aurora police Chief Nick Metz said the fatal shooting of a homeowner who killed a naked intruder who attacked his grandson was a heartbreaking tragedy, but he stood behind the officer who fatally shot Gary Black.
“There is no doubt that Mr. Black put his family before himself,” Metz said in a press conference Thursday where he detailed the department’s preliminary investigation into the controversial incident.
Metz staunchly defended the actions of police at the scene.
“They were not reckless. These officers responded how I would expect them to respond, given the very limited information they had,” he said.
Sighing and looking down at the floor, Metz said the body camera video was heartbreaking.
“I can tell you that when my folks sat around the table and first saw it — and I’m talking about police personnel who have been on the job 25, 30 years who have seen just about everything — there wasn’t a dry eye around the table,” the chief said.
“It is very horrific to watch, not just from the standpoint of watching a man who saved his family get shot but also knowing what that little boy was subjected to,” he said.
Police would not detail what Harper did to the boy, nor detail the boy’s injuries.
Black, 73 and a decorated Vietnam veteran, was killed by an Aurora police officer early Tuesday after police say he shot Dajon Harper, 26, when Harper barged into Black’s home and attacked Black’s 11-year-old grandson.
Metz said that while Black’s death was tragic, the officers responding to the chaotic and violent scene had ordered him to drop his gun five times in a 13-second span, and Black did not.
“It was at that time my officer fired 4 rounds,” he said.
Metz said the officer did what he expected his officers to do, which is to run toward a dangerous situation that other people were running away from.
The officer, a 3-year veteran of the department, is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. The officer was also one of the officers who shot and killed a man outside an East Colfax Avenue motel in late June. He was placed on leave for 18 days before the department’s psychiatric evaluators, local prosecutors and department leadership cleared him to return to duty, a decision Metz defended Thursday.
The chief met with Black’s family earlier Thursday morning and said the family asked that he not release body camera footage of the shooting.
Naked intruder police say sparked fatal police shooting was a gang member with lengthy arrest record
Metz detailed a chaotic scene that started after 1 a.m. when Harper — who police say was a member of the Park Hill Bloods street gang with a lengthy rap sheet — was at a party across East Montview Boulevard from Black’s house. At some point Harper, who friends said was on drugs, became “out of control” and started vandalizing cars before kicking in the door at Black’s home.
Harper then grabbed Black’s 11-year-old grandson and started attacking him, dragging the boy to a bathroom where Harper, who was naked, locked the door.
Several people called 911, but Metz said nobody gave a description of Harper to the dispatchers.
When officers arrived on the scene, there were more than 10 people at the home, including several of Harper’s friends who had rushed over to try to stop him. As police walked through the front yard toward the house, one of them heard Black’s wife say “he’s got a gun,” Metz said, but she didn’t say who had a gun.
As four officers approached the front door they heard gunfire from inside and paused near the threshold.
The officers then saw Black inside the home carrying a gun and a flashlight, and they ordered him to drop the weapon. The lights were on in the living room but Metz said Black had hearing loss from his time in the military and might not have heard the officers’ commands.
Metz said he reviewed the body camera footage multiple times and never heard an officer identify themselves to Black as police.
All four officers were huddled near the door ordering Black to drop the weapon. The officer who fired wasn’t in the front of the group, but police didn’t detail further where each officer was.
The officer who killed Black was the only officer to fire his weapon, but Metz said it’s “dangerous to assume” he was wrong to shoot because of that.
Immediately after the officer shot Black, he told other officers to put gloves on and help him. Police also cleared the house then and found Harper dead in the bathroom and the grandson injured.
Black was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Deputy District Attorney Jess Redman said the incident remains under investigation, and he did not say when the DA’s office will make a decision on any potential charges.