Police officers in Colorado are under investigation following a shooting Monday in which they killed a homeowner who moments before killed an intruder who broke into his home and attacked a child, authorities said.
“This is a very heartbreaking and tragic situation for everyone involved,” Aurora police Chief Nick Metz said in a statement. “We are providing assistance through our victim advocates to help the family of the deceased resident through this very difficult time.”
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Aurora police officials said 911 dispatchers received a call around 1:30 a.m. Monday about a disturbance in a north Aurora neighborhood. Around the same time, a woman called 911 to report a man breaking into her home.
Metz said in the statement that officers arrived to a “very chaotic and violent scene” at the home.
“While on scene, officers heard gunshots fired from inside the home and encountered an armed adult male,” Metz said. “An officer discharged his firearm, striking the armed male, who was transported to the hospital, where he later succumbed to his injuries.”
The man shot by the officer was the homeowner. A family member identified the victim to 9NEWS in Denver as Richard Black, a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran.
Adams County property records list the owners of the home where the shooting took place as Richard and Jeanette Black. Neighbors confirmed the man’s identity to The Denver Post.
Metz said that as officers cleared the home to ensure everyone else inside was safe, they found an injured child.
Though details of the child’s injuries were not released, neighbors told Denver7 the intruder was strangling the boy when Black, the child’s grandfather, intervened.
Officers found the dead intruder on the bathroom floor, the police statement said. That man’s name has not been released.
“Our preliminary investigation has revealed the deceased intruder on the bathroom floor was fatally shot by the armed adult male resident,” the chief said.
Colorado has a law called the “Make My Day” law that gives homeowners the right to shoot an intruder in self-defense. The Post reported that the law, enacted in 1985, requires that the homeowner believe he or someone else would suffer serious bodily harm or death if he did not shoot the intruder.
The injured child had serious but not life-threatening injuries, Metz said. The child, whose age was not released, was taken to the hospital for treatment.
Neighbors of the family told the Post that Black was a longtime resident, a retired grandfather who spent a lot of time working in his garden.
“It’s sad and screwed up,” said neighbor Brad Maestas. “He was a family man, a grandpa that was protecting his family. It’s messed up.”
Susan Askoul told the Post that the victim often took care of his neighbor’s yard on top of his own, and would call neighbors if he saw something amiss at their homes.
“We all kind of look out for each other,” Askoul said.
Denver’s Fox31 reported that family members said Black was decorated during his time in the U.S. Army, receiving the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam.
Metz said the officer who fired the fatal shot has been placed on administrative reassignment with pay while the investigation into the shooting takes place. The shooting is being investigated by the Aurora Police Major Crimes Unit in conjunction with the Denver Police Department.
The 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office is also involved in the investigation.
Metz said all agencies want to ensure transparency with the public, but additional information is being withheld at the moment.
“At the request of the 17th Judicial District, we cannot provide any additional details at this time in order to protect the integrity of the investigation, and all who are involved,” Metz said. “We anticipate a more detailed press conference later this week once all officers involved have been interviewed.”
Black’s shooting death was the second by an Aurora police officer within a 24-hour span, the Post reported. A man spotted driving a stolen truck in Aurora Sunday was followed into Adams County, where he is accused of ramming into several police cars in an attempt to escape the pursuit.
That’s when at least one officer opened fire. The Post reported that the man died at a hospital.
The Adams County Critical Incident Team is investigating that shooting, the newspaper said.