The state of Colorado and three local law enforcement agencies agreed to a record $19 million settlement in the death of Christian Glass, a 22-year-old who was shot and killed by police in June in Silver Plume after he crashed his car and called 911 for help.
The settlement is the largest involving police misconduct in Colorado history, surpassing the $15 million paid in 2021 to the family of Elijah McClain, who died at the hands of Aurora police officers and paramedics during a violent 2019 arrest.
Along with the financial agreement, the state of Colorado and the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office have agreed to non-financial concessions that include using Glass’s death in police training scenarios to teach the importance of de-escalation, the creation of a crisis response team in Clear Creek County and an agreement that Glass’s parents can participate in law enforcement training by speaking about the loss of their son.
Three law enforcement agencies issued statements saying Glass’s death was unnecessary and preventable while pledging to do better for people in crisis in the future. And Clear Creek County Sheriff Rick Albers apologized for Glass’s killing. That apology was mandated in the settlement agreement, according to documents provided to The Denver Post by the Glass family’s lawyers.
“The Sheriff acknowledges that his officers failed to meet expectations in their response to Christian Glass when he called for assistance,” the sheriff’s statement said. “The events that transpired the night of June 10-11, 2022, that ended in Christian’s death, continue to be disturbing.”
Clear Creek County also will dedicate a park in Glass’s name, and Colorado will place three pieces of his artwork in state buildings with Gov. Jared Polis holding a commemoration ceremony on Wednesday.
“The size of the settlement reflects the immense wrong and injustice committed by the officers that killed Christian, whose death has broken his family and left an immeasurable void,” attorneys for the Rathod Mohamedbhai law firm said in a statement on behalf of the Glass family. “Christian Glass should be alive today. This settlement sends a message that such injustice will not be tolerated, and that those responsible will be held accountable — including those officers who stood by and failed to intervene to protect Christian.”
On the night of June 10, Glass called 911 after he crashed his car on an embankment in Silver Plume and told the call-taker he was afraid of “skinwalkers” and people chasing him. Seven officers from five agencies — Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office, Georgetown Police Department, Idaho Springs Police Department, Colorado State Patrol and Colorado Division of Gaming — responded to the call.
Glass sat in the driver’s seat for more than an hour while officers attempted to coax him out of the car. The officers then decided to forcibly remove him, prompting Glass to grab a knife and swing it at one of the officers who was standing outside the rear driver’s-side window.
Clear Creek County sheriff’s deputy Andrew Buen then shot and killed Glass.
Buen, who was fired from the sheriff’s office after being indicted by a grand jury, faces charges of second-degree murder, official misconduct and reckless endangerment.
Former Clear Creek County sheriff’s Sgt. Kyle Gould, who also was fired after the grand jury’s indictment, faces charges of criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment because he gave the go-ahead for officers to break Glass’s car windows and pull him out of the car.
Charges for both former deputies are pending in Clear Creek County District Court.
After the shooting and under pressure from Glass’s parents, Simon and Sally Glass, Clear Creek County Sheriff Rick Albers asked the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office to investigate his agency’s role in the shooting. That report found errors but mostly focused on Buen’s actions.
The Douglas County investigation determined that Buen had no reason to use any force on Glass because the 22-year-old was not a lethal threat and that the law enforcement officers had no legal reason to detain him.
Along with the announcement about the settlements, Georgetown and Idaho Springs issued statements, saying that Glass’s death was unnecessary and preventable. Both agencies blamed the Clear Creek Sheriff’s Office for inaccurate information in a news release published after Glass’s death.
The news release characterized Glass as a criminal who was responsible for his own death.
“That press release should have included more specific details and, once inaccuracies were realized, all involved agencies should have immediately corrected the information,” the Idaho Springs statement said. “The City and ISPD Chief Nate Buseck acknowledge that the lack of judgment, poor tactics, and lack of clear command structure resulted in the unnecessary death of Christian Glass.”
In the sheriff’s statement, Albers took responsibility for the inaccurate description of what happened.
Georgetown officers are attending courses in intensive crisis intervention responses, and the city will participate in a county-wide co-responder program that allows a mental health professional and paramedic to assist law enforcement.
“Despite its awful outcome, Georgetown can — and will — learn from this incident and is committed to making changes to how it trains and supervises its officers as well how it works with its local partners, including Clear Creek County, Idaho Springs, and the State in responding to similar incidents moving forward,” that city’s statement said.
The $19 million settlement will be split among the state and the three law enforcement agencies:
- Clear Creek County — $10 million
- Georgetown — $5 million
- State of Colorado — $3 million (for Colorado State Patrol officer and two Division of Gaming investigators)
- Idaho Springs — $1 million
The settlement also involved specific non-financial agreements, a strategy often used by the Rathod Mohamedbhai law firm to push for police reform. The law firm in recent years has won some of the most high-profile law enforcement misconduct settlements in Colorado, including the McClain case.
State of Colorado
- Will display three pieces of Glass’s artwork in state office buildings and hold a dedication ceremony on Wednesday.
- Glass’s parents will be part of a training video for Colorado State Patrol and Division of Gaming officers.
- The Colorado State Patrol will create a Christian Glass virtual reality training scenario of the incident with a focus on de-escalation in a stressful situation with officers from multiple jurisdictions involved.
Clear Creek County
- Albers will issue a public apology.
- Glass’s parents will have the opportunity to speak to new patrol recruits at the sheriff’s office.
- Clear Creek County will certify all patrol officers in crisis intervention by Jan. 1, 2027, and all new officers will be certified within 12 months of assignment.
- Clear Creek County will establish a crisis response team by Jan. 1, 2025.
- Clear Creek County will dedicate a public park to Glass with consultation from his parents.
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