DENVER -- Denver’s district attorney says she is opening a grand jury investigation into the actions of three police officers who wounded six bystanders while shooting at an armed suspect in a crowded downtown Denver nightlife zone last month.
The officers had already been placed on administrative leave pending a separate internal investigation into the July 17 shooting, which happened as dozens of patrons left bars that were closing for the night in the city's Lower Downtown neighborhood.
“The public’s interest in this particular shooting incident is understandably high,” District Attorney Beth McCann said in a statement announcing the new investigation on Tuesday. “For the community to trust in the outcome from this incident, it is important that independent members of the community review the facts, evidence and law regarding whether these officers should be criminally charged.”
Police have said the three officers, whose names have not been made public, fired seven times in the confrontation with suspect Jordan Waddy, who police say was armed. The gunfire erupted as a nearby group of partygoers left a bar and gathered at a food truck.
The officers were following Waddy, 21, after they saw him punch another man during a fight, police have said.
Bodycam footage released by Denver police on Tuesday appears to show Waddy holding a pistol and throwing it to the ground as the officers opened fire. Police previously said Waddy was holding a firearm before the shooting.
At least one officer shot at Waddy while facing a crowd of people gathered behind the suspect, the footage shows. When the shots were fired, the crowd scattered. Some people fell to the ground in a rush to escape and others ducked behind the food truck or crawled on all fours.
Waddy, who suffered non life-threatening injuries, was arrested on suspicion of felony menacing and possession of a handgun by a previous offender. Court records said he is represented by a lawyer from the public defender’s office, which does not comment on cases.
Six bystanders were injured and authorities have said all received hospital treatment for non life-threatening injuries.
Siddhartha Rathod, an attorney representing the injured bystanders, welcomed the investigation announced by McCann.
Willis Small IV, 24, said in an interview that he was near the food truck when he felt a bullet or bullet fragment penetrate his left foot. Small looked down to see a hole through his shoe, hopped to his car and drove to the hospital.
Yekalo Weldehiwet, 26, was outside the bar after celebrating his fiance's brother's 23rd birthday when a bullet shattered a bone in his upper arm. His right arm went limp, “like a noodle,” he said, and he held it with his left arm as he sprinted away.
Bailey Alexander, 24, who was waiting in line at the food truck with her boyfriend, said she felt blood rushing down her body after a bullet or bullet fragment went through her upper back and exited her right arm. Alexander's boyfriend held her up by the waist as they fled.
Speaking to reporters last month, Denver police Cmdr. Matt Clark said that officials "are deeply concerned for those who were injured during the incident and are working to provide all resources and support to them as they heal."
Jesse Bedayn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Bedayn on Twitter.