When a Denver police officer shot a man armed with a knife in the Cole neighborhood Saturday, one of the bullets apparently hit an uninvolved, occupied car that was parked across the street in front of the home of former City Councilman Albus Brooks.
Kevin Holwerda-Hommes’ wife and 12-year-old daughter were in the passenger and backseats of that car when the shooting happened. Holwerda-Hommes said the bullet went through the driver’s side door — where he’d been sitting minutes earlier — and into the steering column.
“If Kevin had been in that car, he would have been shot,” Brooks said of his neighbor.
Denver police did not mention that the family’s car was struck by a bullet in their initial description of the shooting Saturday. Police spokesman Kurt Barnes said he is not sure whether investigators were aware of the errant round at the time of the 3 p.m. press conference.
“Obviously we are responsible for every round that leaves the officer’s weapon,” Barnes said. “Part of the investigation is determining the trajectory of those rounds … in the event it turns out to be accurate we will document it appropriately as far as any other rounds that were fired and if they did hit anything else.”
He would not say whether police have confirmed that one of the officer’s shots hit the family’s car.
The shooting Saturday happened at about 1:40 p.m. near Russell Square Park at the corner of 37th Avenue and Vine Street after someone called police to report a man walking with a large knife.
A nearby officer responded, saw the man and got out of his patrol car. The man with the knife “advanced on him very quickly,” and the officer shot the man, who survived, police Division Chief Ron Thomas said in a media briefing Saturday.
Brooks said his home’s camera system recorded the shooting.
“It does show on my video camera that they did say, ‘Stop, put the weapon down,’ and he did run directly toward them,” Brooks said, “but it is unacceptable to be shooting at innocent civilians. On behalf of Kevin and the police department, that needs to be looked into. They could have killed or wounded an innocent person.”
Holwerda-Hommes and his family had stopped by their neighbor Brooks’ home on Vine Street in order to drop off their dog for pet sitting before a trip out of town. Holwerda-Hommes had parked near the corner on Vine Street near East 37th Avenue, on the west side of the street, facing south, he said.
The shooting happened on East 37th Avenue, between Vine and North Gaylord streets.
His youngest daughter was standing outside the car on the passenger side, his wife was in the front passenger seat and his older daughter was in the backseat on the driver’s side when the officer fired, he said. He was standing on Brooks’ porch.
His wife drove their daughters home after the shooting — they live just around the corner — and it wasn’t until 30 or 40 minutes later, as they talked about what had happened, that Holwerda-Hommes checked the car, which his wife said sounded off on the short drive home.
“I went outside, fully expecting not to find anything, to find a bullet hole in the driver’s side door, through the door and into the steering column of the car,” he said. “It was terrifying.”
Holwerda-Hommes declined to evaluate the officer’s actions because he hopes to first speak with police about what happened. But he said he wants people to know the full picture of what happened, and to know that police shootings broadly impact neighborhoods.
“(We are) very distraught about the person who was shot,” he said, “and we were not targeted; it was not an injustice in any way in that regard, but there are things that can happen any time this situation comes up.”
There have been at least 48 police shootings in Colorado since Jan. 1, including four by Denver police since Sept. 9, according to records kept by The Denver Post. Thirty-four people have been killed and an additional 15 wounded.
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