The Denver police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man during an alleged domestic violence incident earlier this month believed the man was armed with a knife, but he was actually holding only a black marker, according to body-worn camera footage released Monday.
The shooting happened Aug. 5 just before 8 p.m. in the 2300 block of West Cedar Avenue. The graphic body-worn camera footage shows Brandon Cole, 36, held a black marker in his hand and raised the marker to chest-level as he charged at a police officer that night.
The officer, who has not been publicly identified, shot Cole twice. The body-worn camera footage shows an uninvolved woman and young child were standing directly behind Cole when the officer opened fire. Cole was killed; no one else was injured.
“This is a tremendous tragedy,” Chief Ron Thomas said during a news conference Monday in which police offered the most detailed account to date of the killing.
The incident began at 7:56 p.m., when a neighbor called 911 to report a potential domestic violence incident between Cole, his wife and his teenage son. The caller reported that the woman may have been pushed out of her wheelchair, and said Cole was “going after” his son, police Cmdr. Matt Clark said.
When officers arrived, the woman was sitting against the curb next to a wheelchair. She immediately told one officer, “Don’t, don’t pull your gun out on my husband, please,” the body camera footage shows.
The officer asked the woman if she needed medical care, and the woman asked for an ambulance. At the same time, Cole began to shout at the officers and moved into the middle of the street after apparently retrieving the marker from a vehicle.
Cole took an “aggressive stance” and held the marker “in a threatening manner,” Clark said. One of the officers radioed that he was armed with a knife.
“Let’s go,” he shouted. He walked toward one officer, who retreated and then fired a Taser at him. Police believe only one probe of the Taser struck the man, and so the less-lethal weapon did not stop him.
Cole then turned and charged at the other officer, who shot him. His wife’s screams are heard on the body-worn camera footage.
Clark said Monday that the officer feared Cole would overtake her and stab her. She shot him when he was steps away; a young child and an adult stood immediately behind Cole.
“You can see in the video that when she finally deploys her duty weapon, the person is so close to her that the view of the young child and other person are not even clear to her,” Thomas said. “Certainly that was a consideration, but there was not much time to act before she was overrun by that individual.”
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Thomas said officers are trained to be aware of both their target and what is beyond the target whenever they fire their guns. In January, a Denver police officer was indicted on criminal charges after he shot five bystanders while aiming at a suspect in Lower Downtown last summer. That criminal case is pending.
The officer in this incident, who Thomas declined to identify, has been with the police department since 2019. She has not been involved in any prior shootings.
An investigation into the killing is underway; Denver District Attorney Beth McCann will determine whether the officer acted legally when she killed Cole.
Thomas said Monday that investigators are still working to figure out whether a domestic violence incident was actually underway before officers arrived. Cole’s wife has declined to give a statement to police, and investigators aren’t sure whether she was pushed from her wheelchair.
“We did interview the caller and a number of other witnesses on the scene and are unable to determine whether a domestic violence incident did occur,” Thomas said.