A 73-year-old Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient in Aurora, Colorado, used his firearm to defend his family and home from an unwelcome and violent intruder in the early hours of Monday morning.
Unfortunately, the police who had arrived on scene around the time of the gunfire mistakenly thought the older veteran was the intruder and shot him in his own home. He later was pronounced dead in a hospital.
According to CNN, the intruder was identified as 26-year-old Dajon Harper, who had left a party at a house across the street and forced his way into the home of 73-year-old homeowner Richard Black and began to violently assault the man’s 11-year-old grandson in a bathroom.
Black’s wife called police as other party-goers attempted to convince Harper to leave the Black’s residence, but Black armed himself with a gun and flashlight and set out to rescue his grandson from further harm.
Police arrived to the sounds of yelling and then gunfire from inside the home. They then noticed Black holding the gun and flashlight and, after he didn’t respond to orders to drop the weapon, one officer opened fire on the elderly homeowner.
“(Officers) were confronted by a very, very violent and complex situation, and within two minutes, if that, had to make some very, very critical decisions,” explained Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz during a Thursday news conference.
The unnamed officer who fired the fatal shots, a veteran himself, had been with the force for three years and had no internal complaints filed against him, though he reportedly had been involved in a separate fatal shooting on June 27 and just returned to duty a few weeks after that incident.
The officer has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation, which will fully review all 911 calls and body camera footage from the responding officers.
“He’s incredibly heartbroken over this situation,” Chief Metz said of the officer who fired the shots. “He being a veteran himself, and finding out what Mr. Black had done to save his family … has been devastating to him.”
“This incident was not only tragic, but incredibly heartbreaking for the involved family, the community, and our department,” said the Aurora Police Department in a statement posted to their Facebook page.
This incident has all the appearances of a tragic case of mistaken identity that may very well have been prevented through better communication and patience on the part of the police.
Our hearts go out to all who were involved and we pray for their comfort and peace of mind as they work through the grieving process.