Prosecutors exonerate Denver cops who shot armed carjacking suspect in Aurora earlier this year

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AURORA | A Denver Police Officer who shot and killed an armed carjacking suspect after a clandestine pursuit that ended in central Aurora seven months ago acted appropriately and will not face criminal charges, the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Jason Siers determined that Denver Officer Joseph Heckenkamp was justified when he fired at 23-year-old Nico Descheenie 14 times, striking him five times, on East Iliff Avenue near an onramp for Interstate 225 shortly after 6 p.m. on Jan. 6, prosecutors determined. The shooting occurred after a foot chase that started behind a nearby 7-Eleven.

Descheenie, who was high on methamphetamine at the time he was killed, pointed a gun at officers and attempted to carjack a Toyota Corolla in front of them, prosecutors said.

“Mr. Descheenie would still be alive if he had not threatened a mother and her daughter and then police officers with a firearm,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Jason Siers wrote in a letter explaining his decision not to pursue charges against the officers. “Mr. Descheenie is solely responsible for his death.”

Denver Police Sgt. Timothy Hyatt also attempted to shoot Descheenie, but his gun jammed and did not fire.

“I find that Officer Heckenkamp and Sergeant Hyatt reasonably believed that Mr. Descheenie posed an imminent threat of deadly physical force to both of them and nearby motorists,” Siers wrote. “As such, I find that Officer Heckenkamp and Sergeant Hyatt were justified in using deadly physical force.”

At about 5 p.m. the same day, authorities began tracking Descheenie in a Chevy Avalanche that had been reported stolen in Aurora on Jan. 4. After a license plate reader located the stolen truck near 6th Avenue and Federal Boulevard in Denver, officers affixed a GPS tracking dart to the back of the vehicle after shooting the device onto the truck’s tailgate. Authorities then tracked the car as it wound through the metro area for more than an hour.

Descheenie eventually ditched the truck behind a storage facility on South Xapary Way in Aurora. He then tossed a duffel bag filled with screwdrivers and a shotgun behind an adjacent 7-Eleven while deputies chased him on East Iliff Avenue.

Descheenie then brandished a Smith and Wesson handgun, which he pointed at the driver of a Toyota Corolla in an attempted carjacking, his own head and pursuing officers. Heckenkamp fired at Descheenie after he “turned towards Officer Heckenkamp and Sergeant Hyatt and raised his gun at them,” Siers wrote.

Descheenie was shot in the cheek, buttocks shoulder, back and forearm, according to a coroner’s report.

Aurora police responded a short time later and investigated the incident.

Descheenie had at least four active warrants for failing to appear in local courts for various criminal charges, including drug possession, aggravated motor vehicle theft and DUI, prosecutors said.