The family of Christian Glass, who called 911 after his car got stuck and was later shot and killed by police, will receive a $19 million payout — the largest payout for police misconduct in history Colorado.
Mr. Glass was shot and killed in Silver Plume, a small rural, rocky outpost just west of Denver, last summer. The payout was accompanied by a letter of apology from the sheriff’s department whose officers are charged in his death.
“The events that occurred on the night of June 10-11, 2022, culminating in Christian’s death, continue to be troubling,” Clear Creek County Sheriff Rick Alberts said in a letter of apology to the Glass family. “The initial press release did not accurately describe what happened. Rather, as stated in the investigative report’s conclusion … the deputy who killed Christian Glass used deadly force that was ‘not consistent with that of a reasonable officer.’
That deputy, Andrew Buen, has been charged with second-degree murder, reckless endangerment and professional misconduct. His former tutor, Kyle Gould, who gave remote instructions on the night of Mr Glass’s death, has been charged with criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment.
Both were fired last year by the sheriff’s office after the incident and are scheduled to next appear in court in June.
“Christian Glass should be alive today,” said a statement from lawyers for the Glass family. “This settlement sends a message that such injustice will not be tolerated, and that those responsible will be held accountable.”
Four Colorado state governments will each pay portions of the then-recently announced settlement with the Glass family to reach the record amount. In addition to the funds, the family will also receive assurances that the state and its police agencies are taking steps to ensure that a similar incident does not happen again.
Mr Glass called 911 last June 10 after his car got stuck on a road in the small town, a former silver mining camp. Seven officials from five agencies responded. Mr Glass was shot and killed an hour and ten minutes after calling for help.
He told police on several occasions that he was afraid to leave the vehicle and offered to throw any items that could be considered weapons out of the car. Police alternated between joking and cheering and barking orders at Mr Glass as he became increasingly agitated in the driver’s seat.
Former Deputy Buen smashed the passenger side window, tased Mr. Glass and shot him with bean bags, which were not fatal. Video footage shows Mr Glass fumbling around in front of the vehicle; after officers saw him holding a small knife, Mr Buen opened fire and fatally shot him.
The family have repeatedly said they hope charges will be brought against the other police officer who was present on the night for their failure to intervene.
University of California, Los Angeles law professor Dr Joanna Schwartz told 9News that “$19 million is a lot of money”.
“I think this agency will be thinking carefully about how it operates in the future, and other departments in the region and across the country will also notice this sentiment. But I think it’s the non-financial changes that are the most will directly affect the department in the near future, she added.
Clear Creek County, Officer Buen’s former department, has the largest payout – $10 million. As part of the settlement with the county, Mr. Glass’ parents will be allowed to speak with new patrol recruits joining the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office. The county is also set to create a crisis response team before January 1, 2025.
The county-wide Co-Response program will pair mental health workers with paramedics to respond to calls alongside the police to ensure that what happened in the case of Mr Glass does not happen again.
Dr. Schwartz told 9News that in many cases law enforcement agencies are not interested or willing to agree to settlements like this.
“I really haven’t heard of another settlement that involves the parents actually talking to the police themselves, which is really new in my experience,” she told the local station.
Clear Creek County Sheriff Rick Albers will apologize along with the Board of County Commissioners and he has committed to implementing a crisis intervention certificate for current patrol officers by January 1, 2027. New patrol officers will be certified within a year of being assigned.
The county has also agreed to dedicate a public park to Mr. Glass.
In his letter of apology, Sheriff Albers wrote that he has “taken steps to prevent a future failure.
“He has worked with partners to establish a countywide crisis management program,” he wrote, including forming a Citizen Policy Advisory Board and continuing “to prioritize Crisis Response Teams, Mental Health Response and Co-Responder programs.”
A Colorado State Trooper and two officers from the Division of Gaming also participated in the response to the call from Mr. Glass, meaning $3 million of the payout will come from the state of Colorado’s Office of Risk Management.
The State Patrol will begin Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) training with a short video from the parents of Mr. Glass and the video will also be provided to all troopers, cadets, as well as officers at the Division of Gaming.
The State Patrol will also name a virtual reality training scenario after Mr. Glass. The scenario will review what happened during the deadly encounter, focusing on de-escalation.
“I think the dollars paid will have some impact, but these types of targeted, agreed-upon policy and practice changes may be the fastest way to get those types of changes implemented,” Dr. Schwartz told 9News. “They were able to get something really powerful and unique accomplished through the settlement.”
The state will place three works of art by Mr. Glass in government buildings and Governor Jared Polis will hold a dedication ceremony to honor his life on Wednesday.
The City of Idaho Springs and the Town of Georgetown will also participate in the co-responder program.
An Idaho Springs officer was one of seven members of the police force who responded to Mr. Glass’s call but did not step in to stop the shooting. The city will pay $1 million to Mr Glass’s family and it is issuing a public statement saying it is working with the Jefferson Center for Mental Health. The center has a licensed clinician who does weekly sessions with police officers.
In the city’s statement, Idaho Springs Police Chief Nate Buseck said, “I have three teenagers and a young adult child. I can’t imagine the hurt and pain the Glass family is experiencing when they lose Christian.”
“We in law enforcement need to do a much, much better job. This outcome is not acceptable, and all law enforcement officers need to remember why we signed up to do this job … and that is to help people,” he added.
Georgetown Police Marshal Randy Williams was at the scene of the incident with Mr. Glass. The city pays $5 million to the family and issues a statement. It is also set to participate in the co-responder program.
The statement noted that all officers have completed courses in “intensive crisis intervention response” and that Mr Glass’s death was “tragic, preventable and unnecessary”.