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A family will receive the largest known police settlement in Colorado's history

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The family of Christian Glass will receive a payment from police. Authorities in Colorado killed Glass at the age of 22. He called 911 for help, and a sheriff's deputy who responded shot him as he sat inside the car. Now, the state and several law enforcement agencies have settled the case by agreeing to pay $19 million. Colorado Public Radio's Allison Sherry has been following the case. Good morning.

ALLISON SHERRY, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: I guess we should note, I mean, there are a lot of different sizes of settlements for wrongful deaths like this. Nineteen million is pretty high. Why so high?

SHERRY: Well, in these situations, they do consider a person's potential lifetime of earnings. But, you know, I think really the more important point is that this reflects a pretty big acknowledgement that the law enforcement officers on the scene that night did pretty much everything wrong and that if municipalities didn't pay out now, a jury could have awarded the family something much bigger.

INSKEEP: Oh, so 19 million may have been a bargain. We should note that there are so many high-profile police shootings that involve race in some way or another. In this case, we'll just note that everybody involved appeared to be white. What, according to the plaintiffs, did the police do wrong?

SHERRY: Well, you know, I'm sure you know, Steve, officers are supposed to de-escalate scenes when they get there, and these officers escalated everything from the moment they arrived. Glass never threatened them. He never showed he was a danger to anyone. They screamed at him. They used force. They ended up breaking all the car windows when he was safely inside his own vehicle. At one point, a deputy stood on the hood of his car and pointed a gun at him through the windshield.

INSKEEP: Do you understand any better how it got to that point, how Glass ended up calling for help on that road?

SHERRY: Yeah. You know, it was around midnight. Glass was driving in the mountains near Denver. He apparently got his car stuck on some rocks. This is according to 911 dispatch tape. He called them. He called for some help. He said he had some geology gear in the car from a trip he had recently taken to Utah - two knives and a rubber mallet. He also sounded a little paranoid on that call and very, very scared. When the deputies got there, he offered to throw the gear out the window of the car, but they declined.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: No, do not throw them out. Do not touch them. Do not reach for them. I want you out of the vehicle now. Step out.

SHERRY: Glass told them he was really afraid of getting out of the car. He asked them to tow him or push him out and he'd follow them to a police station. The scene was super chaotic. It escalated very quickly. Eventually, they ended up breaking the windows, shooting him with beanbag projectiles, tasing him, and then ultimately killing him. And, you know, just as a reminder, he was never suspected of committing any crime during all of this.

INSKEEP: Other than paying $19 million, would these law enforcement agencies have to do anything?

SHERRY: Yes, and I think this is really important to the family, the non-monetary agreements that they came up with in this agreement. Clear Creek County, which is the small mountain community that this took place, will dedicate a crisis response team in their small law enforcement agency. The state will also launch a virtual reality police training with Christian's stories so officers can practice how to respond to someone who may be in crisis. And his parents are going to speak to new police recruits about what happened.

INSKEEP: And I guess we should note for the record also, a couple of people involved in this, including the man who shot Glass, have been charged in the case and their trial is coming up. Allison, thanks so much.

SHERRY: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: Allison Sherry is with Colorado Public Radio.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLACK HILL'S "CHILDREN OF THE SNOW") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Allison Sherry
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