Earlier this summer, a deputy sheriff in Clear Creek County, Colorado, shot and killed a man who called 911 because he had a car trouble. The murder shocked Coloradans and received a rare rebuke from Governor Jared Polis (D). The Switzerland Times has now learned that the deputy, Andrew Buen, is being charged with excessive force over a 2019 incident in which he allegedly choked a man and knelt on his back.
Last year, a federal judge allowed the excessive force lawsuit, which local media reported but did not mention, but Buen did not name.
In the lawsuit filed in 2020, Manuel Camacho alleged that Buen and another deputy “initiated” an attack on him with two other deputies. He said the officers “grabbed my head and choked me” before beating him to the ground, turning his body so that he lay face down on the floor and kneeling on top of him.
“Because these two 230 pound officers were on my back, I couldn’t breathe, they nearly choked me to the point of death. I was scared and when I could catch my breath I screamed in pain and screamed for help,” Camacho said. He said the officers then took him to a chair and put a nylon band around his ankles so tight that it restricted circulation to his feet.
Camacho, who is seeking $407,000 in damages, also claimed that the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Department had failed to properly train the officers involved in the incident.
A US magistrate has recommended that the deputies involved in the lawsuit be denied qualified immunity after the sheriff’s office previously filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Qualified immunity protects officers from liability unless the person determines that the officer has violated a clear constitutional right.
But a U.S. district judge upheld the lawsuit, saying the sheriff’s office had no argument against violating Camacho’s 14th Amendment rights, which prohibit the government from inflicting pain on a detainee deemed innocent.
Buen was one of seven officers from five departments who arrived on the scene on June 10 after Christian Glass, 22, called 911 because his SUV was stuck on rocks. Buen eventually fired at least five shots at Glass, who never left his vehicle.
The Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office said Buen shot Glass for refusing to drop a knife he had in his hands after being asked by officers to do so. Neither the sheriff’s office nor the county’s district attorney’s office responded to multiple requests for comment about Buen’s role in the shooting or his disciplinary record. Buen’s lawyer declined to comment.
Glass had initially called 911 because his vehicle was stuck on a mountain road in Silver Plume, Colorado. He told the dispatcher that he was afraid and needed help getting out of the area. When the dispatcher asked if he had any weapons, Glass replied that he had some tools: two knives, a hammer and a rubber mallet.
“I’m in a vehicle and my vehicle got stuck, in a really bad way,” Glass said. ‘I have a weapon with me. I’ll throw them out the window as soon as a cop gets here.”
Glass also said he was “not dangerous” and would keep his hands visible when officers arrived on the scene.
Subsequent body-cam footage shows Glass sitting in the driver’s seat with his hands raised as an officer tries to persuade him to get out. “We’re not going to shoot you, but we need you to get here,” Buen is heard to say.
Buen asks Glass to take the keys out of the ignition; Glass does that and puts them on the dashboard. Glass asks officers to push or tow his car out of the area and says he would follow them to the police station if they did.
Officers ignore his request and Buen tells Glass to get out of the vehicle.
“Sir, I’m terrified,” Glass responds according to the video.
Buen tells Glass that he will break the window of the SUV. When he sees a knife in the vehicle, he pulls out his gun. “Get out of that damn car now,” Buen says, his gun pointed at Glass. Another officer stands behind the vehicle with his gun drawn.
Glass seems afraid to get out of the car in front of the police officers. About an hour after the first officers arrived on the scene, seven officers from different departments now surround the vehicle. Glass can then be seen on the video images that hold up and lift his hands in the shape of a heart to the officers.
At one point, a Colorado State Patrol officer overhears other officers telling them to step back.
“My sergeant says there’s no point in contacting him. He does not harm himself or anyone else, then there is no crime,” the state patrol said on the bodycam footage.
Buen eventually smashes Glass’s windshield. Multiple officers at the scene said Glass had a knife in his hand, but it’s not clear from bodycam footage if he did. Officers yell at Glass to drop the knife, and Glass yells from inside the vehicle.
At one point, an officer jumps on the hood of Glass’s vehicle with a flashlight pointed at him.
“Somebody tase his ass, somebody tase him,” an officer hears say.
Buen then uses a stun gun on Glass, who screams, from the passenger side of the vehicle. Moments later, he fires six shots at Glass.
Officers then drag Glass from the vehicle.
Another Clear Creek County officer arrived at the scene after the shooting and footage from that period sometimes has no sound. At one point, the officer puts his camera on silent for almost 25 minutes.
“What the officers have done in this case is not a tactic,” said Siddhartha Rathod, a lawyer representing Glass’s family. “This was not police, this was bullying. This was escalation. This was murder.”
“It’s a failure of the police every step of the way,” she added. “They had no reason to break out of his window and shoot him six times, to Tase him multiple times. They caused the situation – they escalated at every opportunity.”
Colorado Public Radio reported last week that Buen is currently on patrol. The shooting is still under investigation.