A teenager who suffered a graze wound to the chin after an Aurora police officer shot him sued the officer this week, alleging the officer failed to announce himself before firing the bullet during a call about a stolen phone.
Jeremiah Dean‘s lawsuit against Aurora police Officer Bryce Settles alleges the officer’s decision to fire at Dean’s moving car on July 12, 2021, was dangerous, reckless and against department policy.
“Had the bullet’s path been only slightly higher, Mr. Dean likely would have been killed,” the lawsuit states. “Had the bullet’s path been only a few inches to the left, Mr. Dean’s passenger likely would have been struck by the bullet and potentially killed.”
A spokesman for the Aurora Police Department declined to comment on the litigation but confirmed that Settles still worked for the department. Settles was not disciplined for his actions, spokesman Officer Matthew Longshore said.
Dean’s ex-girlfriend called police in the early morning hours of July 12, 2021, alleging he had taken her cellphone and attempted to cause a car crash, according to the lawsuit. Three Aurora police officers arrived after Dean left to investigate the theft and met the ex-girlfriend at a gas station on South Chambers Road.
The ex-girlfriend was able to convince Dean, then 19, to return to the gas station and officers moved their cars around a corner so they wouldn’t be seen when he approached. When Dean returned, the officers approached on foot while he sat in his car.
While they approached, Dean pulled out backward from the parking spot. Dean states in the lawsuit that he didn’t know officers were behind his car and that officers never announced themselves. Settles was not in the direct path of the vehicle and was not in danger, the lawsuit states.
Settles told investigators that he jumped out of the way of the vehicle and fired one shot toward the driver because he thought the vehicle was going to strike him.
Prosecutors with the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office found Settles did not commit a crime when he shot at Dean because he credibly feared for his safety. Witnesses told investigators that Dean knew officers were nearby before he reversed.
“Mr. Dean’s own actions were the proximate cause for the immediate and attempted use of deadly force by the officer,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Clinton McKinzie wrote in the letter explaining the decision not to charge Settles. “Officer Settles fired at Mr. Dean believing his life was in danger due to the threat posed by Mr. Dean.”
The graze wound left a permanent scar on Dean’s face, the lawsuit states.
Prosecutors charged Dean with five traffic and misdemeanor offenses in connection to the incident. Dean pleaded guilty to the petty offense of disorderly conduct in March and prosecutors dismissed charges of reckless endangerment, theft and reckless driving.
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