PROSECUTORS: No charges for Aurora cops who shot 2 armed men in separate encounters last October

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AURORA | A pair of Aurora Police officers who shot and seriously wounded two different armed men in separate incidents last October were legally justified in pulling their triggers, prosecutors with the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office have determined. 

Deputy district attorneys determined that theoretical jurors would have found the actions of Officers Alexander Ord and Joseph Carns “reasonable” when they shot and maimed gun-wielding suspects on Oct. 10 and Oct. 20, respectively. 

“I believe a jury would find credible officer Ord’s perception and description of fear … As such, I believe the jury would find officer Ord’s thoughts and actions to be objectively reasonable,” according to the letter penned in response to the Oct. 10 incident co-signed by Chief Deputy District Attorney Amy Ferrin and Senior Deputy District Attorney Douglas Bechtel.

Ord was one of four officers who responded to the home of Andrew Huff, who was 22 at the time of the shooting, on South Bahama Street around 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 10, 2019, according to information previously released by Aurora police. The officers were called to the area after Huff’s former roommate called 911 around 10:45 p.m. the same evening to report that he had been assaulted by Huff and his brother earlier in the day. The officers spoke with the roommate, observed his injuries, and learned that the Huff brothers had gotten into a physical altercation with him earlier in the day following a disagreement about using a car.

A trio of other Aurora police officers had spoken with the Huff brothers following the assault earlier in the day, but closed the investigation because no parties indicated a desire to press charges at that time, according to the letter issued by the DA’s Office. Ord and the other responding officers were not aware of that police contact with the Huff brothers earlier in the day.

Upon arriving at the Huff home later in the evening, Ord and several other officers parked around the corner from Huff’s home after learning from the former room mate that Huff may be armed with a handgun or sawed-off shotgun. 

“The officers intentionally parked this distance from the home for officer safety purposes,” prosecutors wrote. 

The responding officers reported seeing Huff run from the curb in front of his house into the residence. As one officer knocked on the door in an attempt to contact Huff, Ord saw him through a front window holding a shotgun. He then fired in Huff’s direction five times, striking him in the buttocks. Huff survived the shooting.

None of the officers announced themselves as police personnel, but all four of them “believed the male knew the police were present,” according to the prosecutors’ letter. 

Ferrin and Bechtel determined Ord acted within his means to protect himself and his fellow officers.

“The officer used the only degree of force that was available to him,” attorneys wrote. “Given Andrew Huff was armed with a deadly weapon and quickly moved to a location in the home where officers could no longer see him, officer Ord could not stop the use of the rifle by any other means.”

Huff’s parents and criminal defense attorney have vehemently and repeatedly condemned the police response to the shooting since it occurred. 

Regarding the second police-involved shooting 10 days later, the same attorneys in the 18th Judicial District found that Officer Carns had reasonable grounds for shooting Oscar Lucio-Vazquez, who was 38 on Oct. 20, 2019. 

Carns was the first officer to respond to reports of a knife fight at 9121 E. 14th St. around 1:45 a.m., according the DA’s letter. While en route to the north Aurora apartment complex, a specialized neighborhood detection system reported that shots had been fired in the area. 

Upon arriving, Carns was quickly confronted with two women who ran screaming from a back entrance of the complex. Moments later, Lucio-Vazquez crawled out of a basement window holding an AR-15 assault rifle. Though Carns instructed the man to “drop the gun” twice, Lucio-Vazquez turned toward the officer. Carns then fired five shots at the man, striking him an unknown number of times. 

Though Lucio-Vazquez crawled back into the apartment after being shot, he was arrested a short while later. 

A witness, Luis Ramirez, later told police that he was the owner of the gun Lucio-Vazquez was holding when he was shot. Ramirez said Lucio-Vazquez had wrestled the gun away from him following an argument moments before the shooting. 

The weapon was not loaded when Lucio-Vazquez was shot, though prosecutors did not place much credence on that fact. 

“I do not find the fact that the AR-15 was unloaded to be relevant,” Bechtel wrote. “I do not believe this would have been evident to a person given the distance, movement, darkness and brief interaction. Therefore, I do not believe this is a factor in whether Officer Carns’ belief was reasonable. Given that a jury would find both that Officer Carns reasonably believed Mr. Lucio-Vazquez posed a threat to himself or others and the degree of force used was reasonable, I believe Officer Carns’ use of physical force is legally justified.”

Both Carns and Ord were relatively new to the Aurora Police Department at the time of the shootings, but both had previous law enforcement experience. Carns had been a SWAT officer for the Littleton Police Department for four years prior to joining Aurora police in March 2018. Ord was a corrections officer with the state Department of Corrections for two years before joining APD in June 2017. At the time he shot Huff, Ord was in the department’s field training program, according to the DA’s Office. 

Both officers with placed on paid administrative leave followed by limited duty assignments in the months after the shootings, according to a spokesperson for Aurora police. Ord and Carns both returned to patrol duty in late December.

In January, Lucio-Vazquez pleaded not guilty to the felony menacing charge levied against him, according to state court records. He’s currently scheduled to appear in Arapahoe County District Court for a motions hearing May 28.

Huff has yet to be arraigned on the trio of charges — including felony assault and felony menacing — he has been accused of. He’s arraignment hearing is currently set for June 19.

Citing those ongoing criminal cases, a spokesperson for Aurora police declined to comment on the DA’s decision letters.

Individual attorneys representing Huff and Lucio-Vazquez did not immediately respond to requests for comment.