UPDATE (4/18/16) – Today we received a letter from the Custodian of Records for the Department of Safety informing us that our open records request for the footage of the shooting has been denied. We plan to appeal the denial.
UPDATE (4/13/16) – In a press conference (streamed over Periscope) earlier today Denver Police stated that they did not recover any weapon from Dion Avila’s body or from the car in which they shot & killed him. Avila was shot within roughly a minute of the police exiting their vehicles. The officers involved in the incident were from DPD Metro/SWAT and were acting in coordination with federal agents to follow him throughout the day leading up to the murder. Commander Ron Saunier of the Major Crimes Division cited “noncompliance” with commands given to exit the vehicle, as well as an alleged “threatening type maneuver” as justification for the shooting.
The man who fired the seven shots was identified as Technician Jeff Motz (pictured), a veteran of the police department who has spent years in Denver’s infamously brutal SWAT unit. Jeff Motz was one of several police named in a lawsuit filed by a man who was shot in the back by DPD while laying face down on the ground in 2013. In 2003, Motz, then an officer and not a technician, was one of 8 who fired shots during the Denver Police killing of Shaun Gilman, a 20-year-old mentally ill man whose family called the police when he was having an episode.
Early in the afternoon of April 12, 2016, Denver Police working with several agencies as part of a “Safe Streets Task Force” shot and killed Dion Avila Damon inside his parked car near the Denver Art Museum at the intersection of 14th & Bannock. Unicorn Riot reporters arrived shortly after the shooting.
During a press conference, Denver Police Chief Robert White claimed the man killed was a suspect in a robbery that had occurred some time prior to the day of the shooting, and that officers were attempting to serve a warrant. Chief White did not mention whether or not the man was armed, and eyewitnesses we spoke with on scene said they did not see any evidence of a weapon and that even if a weapon was present in the vehicle, it was not used. At 14th & Bannock we observed two black SUVs pinned against the vehicle. It appears the parked car was pushed into the curb after being rammed by law enforcement vehicles and based on observing the scene for many hours we surmise that shots were fired as soon as officers exited their vehicles. More evidence will likely emerge clarifying exactly what happened.
Dion’s wife and her young child were present at the time of the shooting, having just exited the car.
“I was coming here to pay a fine and we parked. I asked my husband if he wanted to come in and he said no he’ll wait in the car. Then I see a truck come up and hit my car and it startled me so I hugged my son and grabbed him,” Dion’s wife told FOX31. “I’m telling them please don’t shoot, I’m not armed my husband’s not armed.”
For many hours the scene of the shooting was cordoned off with police tape and a tent blocked any view of the murder scene.
Witnesses reported hearing many shots, and as of yet there is no evidence suggesting any shots were fired by Damon. After waiting for about four hours, we were able to get an unobstructed view of the vehicle when some of the police tape was finally pulled back. We counted seven bullet holes in the windshield of the car, and the placement of the holes appear to suggest that they were fired at a downward angle, by a shooter directly in front of the car. Members of the media and public who saw the bullet holes in the windshield expressed shock & disbelief. One press photographer was heard to remark “this was murder.”
Denver Police have been involved in 3 shootings in 2016, all of which were fatal.