The Denver district attorney’s office held a virtual town hall meeting Wednesday evening to discuss and review its decision in clearing a Denver police officer of criminal charges in the shooting death of 21-year-old William DeBose.
District Attorney Beth McCann cleared Cpl. Ethan Antonson of charges last week in the shooting of DeBose on May 1. McCann held a 90-minute online meeting to go over how her office came to its decision, and she answered about a dozen questions from the public as part of the presentation.
McCann laid out how her office investigated the shooting, along with Denver police, going step by step through the process, including showing up personally at the shooting scene.
Antonson told investigators that DeBose pointed a gun at him as he ran from them in the parking lot of the Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales public library branch at West Colfax Avenue and Irving Street.
McCann said Wednesday that physical evidence, including the recovery of a gun, witness account of a police officer on scene and officer body-camera footage, among other evidence, corroborated Antonson’s account.
One of the questions, all of which were submitted in writing and read to McCann by a moderator, asked whether DeBose legally owned a gun or could carry a weapon.
McCann, said she didn’t know the answer to the question, but in the officer-involved shooting investigation it was a moot point.
“It didn’t matter” whether DeBose was “legally entitled” to own or carry a weapon. “He held and pointed (a gun) at a police officer. That is what I’m looking at under the law. Is the officer justified in responding the way he did? My conclusion was he … believed that there was danger of death or bodily injury” and his use of force is justified. “It didn’t matter if he (DeBose) could own a gun.”
Zach McCabe, a senior deputy district attorney, also participated in the forum.
McCabe said the gun found at the scene, which DeBsoe dropped after being shot and as he fell to the ground, was purchased legally by another man in January, according to investigators. That man, who was not identified, told investigators that the gun came up missing from his residence after he had a house party. The man did not report it as stolen. Investigators could not say how DeBose came to be in possession of the 9mm handgun.
At the end of the presentation McCann thanked participants for listening and asking questions, although there was no direct exchange.
She described all officer-involved shooting cases as heart-wrenching, emotional experiences, for the family and friends of the deceased and for the officers involved.
“They are tragic. They are always tragic for the family who has lost a love one,” McCann said. “They are tragic for the police officer. It is a horrible situation.”
In the end, in coming to a decision on whether to prosecute and file criminal charges, McCann said, she is guided by the law.
“Would a jury be able to convict under the law?”
In this case, her office decided that the answer is “no.”