Denver police released body cam footage Tuesday of a March 2018 shooting that left the wrong suspect dead.
Three Denver cops mistakenly thought they were pursuing a suspect who had escaped jail on March 19 when they opened fire on 27-year-old Steven Nguyen’s SUV, killing him.
Nguyen was shot almost 50 times.
Nguyen’s 23-year-old Rafael Landeros was wounded, but survived the shooting.
It turned out, the suspect, Mauricio Venzor-Gonzalez, who was on the lam on attempted murder charges after shooting at a police officer in November before escaping jail, was not inside the SUV.
In fact, police had mistakenly identified Nguyen as Venzor-Gonzalez when they began pursuing Nguyen
Venzor-Gonzalez, 23, had been arrested earlier in the year for shooting at a police officer, according to the Denver Post.
Even though Denver police officers William Bohm, Austin Barela and Susan Mercado shot the wrong people while looking for Venzor-Gonzalez, Denver Police Commander Barb Archer, declared the shooting justified because the officers believed they were actually pursuing Venzor-Gonzalez.
And since the people inside of the SUV did not follow orders, officers “feared for their safety.”
“Officers knew that Venzor-Gonzalez had been arrested in November for attempting to kill a police officer,” Archer said after watching the video.
“They believed the actions being made inside the car were efforts to locate a weapon. So fearing for their safety the officers fired.”
It happened as Denver police were monitoring Venzor-Gonzalez’s home after he escaped from deputies at Denver Health hospital on March 18.
An SUV with two men inside circled the block near Venzor-Gonzalez’s home.
Police believed the SUV to be Venzor-Gonzalez.
Officers were granted permission to pursue the SUV.
Nguyen fled, at times reaching speeds of around 100 MPH.
Video shows when officers stop the car, Nguyen and Landeros don’t have much time to comply before officers open fire, spraying their SUV with bullets.
The SUV then rolls down an embankment where officers claim they could see the occupants looking for something inside.
And that, they claim, prompted them to fire a second round of shots as the SUV comes to a stop.
“This level of excess is particularly egregious because it was fueled by a dispatch from detectives who could not positively identify the passenger in Steven’s car, but falsely reported ‘to a 100 percent certainty’ that he was an escapee wanted for shooting at police,” Nguyen family attorney Spencer Bryan said in a statement
Watch footage of the incident, shown from two different body cam perspectives, above.
Listen to Denver Police Commander Barb Archer’s explanation about the incident during a March 22 press conference.