The shrapnel from a Denver police officer’s bullet that’s lodged in Bailey Alexander‘s arm still burns three days later.
The police bullet that struck Yekalo Weldehiwet remains lodged in the back of his bicep — it inflicts a sharp pain when he moves. It shattered his humerus bone and will require surgery to set the bones correctly and remove the bullet.
Weldehiwet and Alexander were both leaving the Larimer Beer Hall early Sunday morning after a night out with friends when Denver police shot them while firing at a man the officers said had a gun. They were two of six bystanders injured by Denver police gunfire when officers fired at the man in the crowded bar district on Larimer Street.
“I’m trying to get some answers about why they would shoot into a crowd like that,” Weldehiwet said.
Weldehiwet and Alexander on Wednesday became the first bystander victims to speak publicly about the shooting. They spoke to reporters shortly after Denver police held a news conference during which police acknowledged the incident could’ve been handled better.
“Both of our clients have bullet holes in their bodies, through their bodies,” said attorney Siddhartha Rathod, whose firm Rathod Mohamedbhai is representing Weldehiwet and Alexander. “That’s not an acceptable outcome. The public will not tolerate being collateral damage.”
Weldehiwet, a 26-year-old who works in data analytics, was running from the sounds of gunfire when it felt like a baseball hit him in the back of the arm at 100 mph, he said. He assumed somebody hit him, but as he moved away his arm started to go numb. It wasn’t until Weldehiwet noticed the blood running down his arm that he realized he’d been shot.
He walked to the nearest police officer and later got into an ambulance with two other shooting victims.
Alexander, a 24-year-old surgical assistant, was trying to decide whether she wanted a gyro from a food truck to wrap up a night of bar hopping with her boyfriend and best friend when the gunfire exploded.
They fled — Alexander and her boyfriend in one direction and her best friend in the other. As she ran, Alexander felt a warm and sticky substance running down her arm. It took her a moment to realize she had been shot, she said. The bullet had traveled through her back and out her arm.
They ran into the alley behind the beer hall where two strangers helped Alexander apply pressure to her two wounds and her boyfriend made a tourniquet out of his shirt.
The pain didn’t set in until Alexander was alone in the ambulance, she said. She shook uncontrollably as the ambulance approached the hospital. She felt like she couldn’t breathe.
Denver police officers interviewed both Weldehiwet and Alexander in the hospital, but told neither Weldehiwet nor Alexander that police had shot them. They said they didn’t realize who had shot them until they read news reports the next day.
“It’s just very shocking and pretty infuriating to learn that the people who were there to calm the situation down and keep everybody safe were the ones who did the very opposite of that,” Alexander said. “To learn that the suspect didn’t shoot once is pretty alarming.”
Police said they recovered a handgun after officers shot 21-year-old Jordan Waddy, a parolee who has been arrested on suspicion of felony menacing and possession of a weapon by a previous offender.
Neither Weldehiwet nor Alexander have been able to work since. Neither has been able to sleep much. Both will likely live with shrapnel in their body.
Alexander wants to go back to the area to see the scene again.
But will she return to bar-hopping in LoDo? She’s not sure.
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