Family of Colorado man shot by police moments after making heart shape with his hands say they want justice

The parents of a young man killed by Colorado police while he appeared to have a mental health crisis have pleaded for justice.

Twenty-two-year-old Christian Glass “didn’t have a single aggressive bone in his body,” his mother, Sally Glass, said on the verge of tears during an emotional press conference on Tuesday. She said he was kind and gentle, loved art and nature and spent the last days of his life painting pastels in Utah.

During his last moments, Mr Glass made a heart shape with his hands that was captured on the same police bodycam footage that recorded his killing at the hands of Creek County Sheriff’s Office deputy Andrew Buen on the night of 10 June. Mr Buen, 29, and five other deputies had arrived at the scene after Mr Glass called 911 when he crashed his car on a rural road.

He was tasered and shot five times. Within hours, the sheriff’s office issued a statement saying they were able to “break out the car windows and remove one knife, [before he] rearmed himself with a rock and a second knife,” and allowed Officer Buen to patrol just days after Christian’s death.

The weapons were rock knives, Ms Glass said. Mr Glass had offered to throw them out of the car window twice — first during the 911 call when the dispatcher asked if he had any weapons and then again when deputies arrived at the scene. She told The Independent on Wednesday that she couldn’t bring herself to watch the hour-long footage of her son’s killing.

Christian made a heart shape before he was killed by a Creek County Sheriff’s Office deputy (CCSO)
Christian made a heart shape before he was killed by a Creek County Sheriff’s Office deputy (CCSO)

During the press conference, she said that Mr Glass had likely experienced a mental health crisis.

He had recently been diagnosed with ADHD and had been prescribed Ritalin for it. An autopsy revealed that traces of alcohol, cannabis and amphetamines — which his parents explained was his ADHD medication as it can show up as an amphetamine— were found in his bloodstream, the Daily Mail reported.

His death is being investigated by the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, the agency that handles police shootings in the state.

On Tuesday, Ms Glass decried the systemic policing issue in America as she held heart-shaped rocks found inside her son’s car.

“We have to pray for us in America, we have to pray to make this a less violent country,” Ms Glass said. “[Police] escalate at every opportunity and it looks like spoiling for a fight. No other industrialized nation comes even close to the amount of police killings that happen in this country.”

Mr Glass told authorities that he had the knives inside his car before they approached him.

“I have two knives and a hammer and a rubber mallet,” he said, according to the 911 call audio obtained by the Colorado Public Radio. “I’m not dangerous. I’ll keep my hands completely visible. I understand this is a dodgy situation.”

Christian with his father, Simon Glass
Christian with his father, Simon Glass

He also offered to throw them out of the car when officers arrived at the scene. Mr Glass then refused to leave the car and kept his windows rolled up, saying he was too scared to get out.

“You need to step out of the car now. Step out of the car,” an officer said. “That is a lawful order. Step out of the car now or you’ll be removed from the vehicle.”

The situation rapidly escalated when an officer jumped on the hood of the car and the right window was broken.

Surrounded by several officers nearing the end of the hour and 20-minute-long interaction with police, deputies voiced that he was holding a knife.

“Deputies deployed less-lethal bean bags, and Taser with negative results. The suspect eventually tried to stab an officer and was shot,” the sheriff’s office claimed in the first statement put out just hours after Mr Glass was shot.

But the autopsy revealed that Mr Glass’s body had partial knife wounds where he would have harmed himself, according to the Mail.

Bodycam footage shows officers talking to Christian (CCSO)
Bodycam footage shows officers talking to Christian (CCSO)

“From beginning to end, the officers escalated and proactively initiated force,” attorneys Siddhartha Rathod and Qusair Mohamedbhai said in a release to CPR.

“And yet, these officers, including the one who killed Christian, are still in uniform and have paid no price for their conduct. Our country cannot continue to tolerate this level of extreme violence by law enforcement. The act of simply calling 911 for help cannot be a death sentence.”

At one point, Colorado State Patrol asked for the deputies’ plan, stating there was no crime and if “he’s not suicidal or homicidal or a great danger, then there’s no reason to contact him.”

“There are mental health crisis teams both in Jefferson County and Boulder County, so within 30 to 45 minutes away,” Mr Mohamedbhai said. “Crisis response teams could have easily been called, or the officers could have left their card on Christian’s windshield and simply left.”

Experts consulted by the Associated Press said a crisis response team may have helped de-escalate the situation.

“There are some real red flags that suggest potential problems,” Seth Stoughton, a former police officer and leading use-of-force expert who testified in the trial of Derek Chauvin, said after reviewing the footage.

Christian was tasered and shot five times (CCSO)
Christian was tasered and shot five times (CCSO)

“From beginning to end, the officers on scene acted unconscionably and inhumanely,” the attorneys said in the statement. “The Glass family agrees with Colorado State Patrol’s on-scene assessment that Christian had committed no crime, posed no threat to himself or others, and there was no reason for continued contact.”

Mr Glass, whose parents are British and who was born in New Zealand, had a hard time assimilating the move to America and had found an outlet in art. He had recently been experimenting with pastels during a trip to Mohab, Utah.

“We were planning to visit the National Portrait Gallery,” Ms Glass told The Independent.

Ms Glass said she is now determined to obtain justice for her son.

“What keeps me putting one foot in front of the other is to seek justice and really, to get that [expletive] behind bars,” she said during the press conference.