DELTA – Delta Police Chief Robert Thomas was relieved but still sad after an investigation found that two of his officers had no choice on Oct. 23 but to fire back after Larry Allen Brown fired at them first. Brown was killed in the shootout.
But Brown’s death is much more than an incident, and although alcohol and drugs played a role, as toxicology tests confirmed, Thomas said, his death is still a tragedy.
Brown was “a good man” Thomas said, and even though the Dec. 22 ruling declared the death as “justifiable homicide,” it still shook the officers involved as well as the town, and the Brown family still grieves.
“As I’ve continuously said, this is a tragedy not only for the family but for the community and for the officers involved,” he said. “This will always be a part of their life and a part of their families’ life, and they’re trying to move forward.
“Like they told me, this will always be difficult for them, because every day they are replaying in their minds the night of the shooting, in terms of how the incident unfolded, what they observed and what they heard.”
The investigation into the shooting is complete, according to a letter to Thomas from Jean Woodford, First Assistant Attorney General for the Seventh Judicial District’s criminal justice section.
Woodford concluded that no criminal charges would be brought against Officers Rdean Young and Todd Huff, or Sgt. Jesse Stanford. The men’s names were first made public in Woodford’s letter.
Woodford’s letter also describes the events of that night, when police received a call about gunshots in the 600 block of Grand Avenue in Delta, near Brown’s house.
Young, Huff and Stanford were all on separate patrols, and all were dispatched to the scene at 1:14 a.m. Young and Huff arrived first, with Stanford arriving a short time later.
According to a “statement of facts” provided by Woodford, Young and Huff arrived about the same time about a block away and moved toward the suspect on foot. The statement includes the following description of the shooting:
“As officers Young and Huff proceeded north on Grand Avenue, they heard an individual saying something to the effect of ‘I see you.’ Officer Huff ordered the individual to ‘Show me your hands!’ At that time the individual fired a gunshot toward Officer Huff. After shooting toward Officer Huff, the individual then fired toward Officer Young. Officer Young simultaneously fired back at the individual. While Officer Young was moving in an attempt to take cover, he fired two additional rounds at the individual with the gun. The individual also continued firing at the officers. At this point, both officers realized that the individual had taken a kneeling position with his weapon. Officer Young fired two additional shots and officer Huff fired one round at the individual. The suspect went down to the ground at this point and no further rounds were fired.”
Stanford was at the scene by this time, and an ambulance was called, arriving at 1:18 a.m., according to the statement, but Brown had no pulse. He had been shot once in the shoulder and twice in the head and was found with a semi-automatic .45 caliber Ruger firearm. Huff and Young were armed with .40 caliber Glock 22s. Shell casings found during the investigation were consistent with the officers’ stories, according to the Woodford’s letter. The letter also states that an autopsy by the El Paso County coroner reported that Brown had a blood alcohol level of .226 as well as evidence of “narcotics containing opiates and benzodiazepine metabolites.”
Brown’s family is “understandably” angry that the investigation took so long and also about the outcome, Thomas said.
“The bottom line is that the family is grieving and must be experiencing a multitude of feelings and emotions,” he said. “It’s a tragedy, and my understanding is that Mr. Brown was a good man.”
The Browns have a right to their anger and frustration, Thomas said, but stressed that his office had nothing to do with the investigation, and “the facts are the facts.” Calls to Brown’s family home were not returned.
Now that the criminal investigation is over, Thomas said he will begin an administrative investigation of his own to determine “if any policies or procedures were not followed.”
In the meantime, all three officers have been restored to their full duties. Stanford is a patrol supervisor, and Huff and Young are both patrol officers. The three had been on administrative leave and desk duty since the night of the shooting.
A memorial service for Brown was held on Oct. 30 at the First Baptist Church in Delta, where he was a member, according to an obituary from Taylor Funeral Service. Brown moved to Delta in 1996 after retiring from the U.S. Navy in 1993. He was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Tres Diaz and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, No. 909. He enjoyed playing the guitar and harmonica, writing poetry and weight lifting. He is survived by his wife Sue, his mother, two sons, two stepdaughters, two brothers, three sisters and four grandchildren.