DENVER | The mother of a man hailed as a hero for killing a gunman who ambushed and fatally shot a police officer only to be shot and killed himself by another officer without warning in Arvada filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the officer who shot him and the police chief, claiming the officer shot him from behind and should have realized he did not pose a threat.
The lawsuit comes a day after the first anniversary of the shootings in the middle of the day in the main square in Olde Town Arvada, a historic shopping and entertainment area about 7 miles northwest of downtown Denver. Investigators say a man, Ronald Troyke, who was intent on killing as many police officers as he could, shot and killed Officer Gordon Beesley before being shot and killed by Johnny Hurley, who heard the shots, rushed out of a nearby store and fired his handgun at Troyke. Hurley then picked up Troyke’s AR-style rifle to unload it because Troyke was still alive and posed a threat, the lawsuit said.
Kraig Brownlow, one of three officers who had heard shots and spotted Troyke from inside a nearby police substation, then saw Hurley and shot and killed him as he was holding Troyke’s gun with his own pistol in its holster. According to a district attorney investigation that cleared Brownlow, it appeared to him like Hurley was reloading the rifle or trying to fix something on it. District Attorney Alexis King, who along with police has praised Hurley’s actions, said that Brownlow thought Hurley was a second mass shooter and that he only had a moment to stop him from hurting others, King said.
However, the lawsuit claims that Hurley was crouched down at the time with the rifle pointing down and not in a threatening position, pointing out that it was clear to a witness that Hurley was taking the magazine out of the rifle. The lawsuit alleges that the Arvada Police Department trains its officer never to give warnings before shooting in active shooter situations, which is claims is unconstitutional.
None of the officers inside the substation knew that Beesley, a 19-year department veteran and beloved school resource officer, had been shot or that Hurley had intervened, according to the district attorney’s investigation.
The lawsuit says that the three officers “cowered” in the substation, “choosing self-preservation over defense of the civilian population” before Brownlow saw Hurley, opened the building’s door and shot Hurley after deciding against giving a warning first.
“And he made this choice despite the fact that no reasonable officer could have perceived a threat from Mr. Hurley’s actions. Mr. Hurley’s death was not the result of a misfortunate split-second judgment call gone wrong, but the result of a deliberate and unlawful use of deadly force,” it said.
Arvada officers have discretion in whether to give warnings before shooting someone when giving one would give a suspect an advantage to shoot others or officers, police department spokesperson Detective David Snelling said.
Arvada police Chief Link Strate did not have a comment on the lawsuit at this time, Snelling said. Brownlow left the department in good standing after the district attorney’s investigation and was someone the department would gladly have back, he said.
A phone message and an email sent to City Attorney Rachel Morris, who was at a conference, was not immediately returned.