He called 911 and police treated him ‘like an animal in a cage’ before killing him, say prosecutors in Christian Glass murder trial

Former deputy Andrew Buen has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, misconduct and reckless endangerment in the June 2022 killing of motorist Christian Glass, 22, who was shot dead in his vehicle after calling 911 for help

Sheila Flynn
Thursday 25 April 2024 16:11 BST
Bodycam shows fatal shooting of Colorado man during apparent mental health crisis

A terrified Christian Glass was swarmed by armed officers and treated “like an animal in a cage that’s being poked and prodded” before former deputy Andrew Buen fired five fatal shots into his vehicle, prosecutors argued Wednesday in closing arguments of Buen’s murder trial.

Fifth Judicial District Attorney Heidi McCollum replayed body camera footage for jurors at the start of Wednesday’s arguments, emphasizing the immediate and repeated barked orders at the 22-year-old to get out of the car from former Clear Creek County deputy Buen.

Buen has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, reckless endangerment and first-degree official misconduct in connection with the June 2022 killing.

Sally Glass is comforted by her husband Simon. Their son Christian, 22, is seen on the far right
Sally Glass is comforted by her husband Simon. Their son Christian, 22, is seen on the far right (Associated Press and The Glass Family)

The former deputy was first on scene with shift partner Tim Collins to respond to Christian’s 911 motorist assist call – but those initial abrupt orders, along with Buen’s behaviour, “escalated everything that happened on scene that night,” McCollum told the court.

“Mr Buen ran that scene,” McCollum told the court. “He showed up; he was in charge ... it was Mr Buen’s decision to get Christian out of the car – call it tunnel vision, call it hyper-focused ... maybe even a goal.

“Literally, in under ten minutes, he made a comment to dispatch: ‘We’re going to have to get this guy out of the car’ – and that was it,” she said. “He never faltered from that. He never wavered from that decision ... and, ladies and gentlemen, he did it. He got him out.”

Throughout the trial, prosecutors have argued that Buen acted with excessive, aggressive and criminal force, that his determination to remove Christian from the car was unjustified and that none of the seven officers on scene faced real danger from Christian – who remained within the vehicle at all times.

Buen’s defense team have accused the prosecution of a shoddy investigation and case, suggesting Christian was intoxicated and may have committed offenses such as dangerous driving in the run-up to his 911 call. They argue that Buen believed other officers’ lives were in jeopardy after Christian picked up a knife in the vehicle – which the prosecution repeatedly pointed out Christian had offered to throw out of the car both during conversations with the dispatcher and Buen himself.

“He was being cooperative,” McCollum said Wednesday. “He offered to throw weapons out the window; Mr Buen didn’t want that.”

Christian loved art, sports, geology and had a passion for social justice, his family say; he had trained as a chef and was looking at coding programmes
Christian loved art, sports, geology and had a passion for social justice, his family say; he had trained as a chef and was looking at coding programmes (The Glass Family)

After Buen told Christian not to touch them, the 22-year-old picked up a small knife for “less than a second” and tossed it aside to obey orders, McCollum said. He put his hands on the wheel as instructed.

“Nothing that he did showed that he was a danger to himself; he certainly wasn’t a danger to anyone else,” she said Wednesday. “He had barricaded himself in a car ,and he had complied with everything Mr Buen had said, aside from getting out. He had tried to explain he was afraid; he was terrified. He was praying.”

She argued that none of the other officers, all of whom were closer to Christian as the incident escalated, fired their weapons on the night.

The defense, however, countered in closing arguments that no one but the people on scene could hear, see and smell the conditions on the evening, that body camera footage wasn’t enough. Defense lawyer Carrie Slinkard told jurors that prosecutors mentioned “nobody else shot – without explaining to you why.”

“There were explanations, you just didn’t hear any of them, because she didn’t put any of those witnesses on the witness stand,” Slinkard said. “You cannot infer that he is guilty of murder because other people made a different decision when they were standing in different places, looking at different things and had different backdrops at the time.”

She played and replayed body camera footage for the court on Wednesday which she argued proved Georgetown Marshal Randy Williams (also referred to as Georgetown Police Chief throughout the trial) had been within range of Christian’s knife at the time.

“It wasn’t until the knife in Mr Glass’s hand went outside that back window as the chief is standing right there that shots are fired,” she argued.

Slinkard also took aim at the prosecution’s argument that Buen had no justification for removing Christian from the vehicle, insisting the motorist’s pupils were dilated and Christian could have been intoxicated.

The DA’s argument, she said, meant “anyone who gets pulled over for a DUI in the future or really any crime, at this stage, can just sit in their car, roll their windows up, not communicate and just keep cops there forever ... resources don’t matter, DUI doesn’t matter, because they said they’re scared.”

Simon and Sally Glass comfort each other during an emotional news conference about the death of their son, Christian Glass, Sept. 13, 2022
Simon and Sally Glass comfort each other during an emotional news conference about the death of their son, Christian Glass, Sept. 13, 2022 (Associated Press)

Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Potts, however, urged jurors in closing to consider officer-created jeopardy – “when an officer creates a situation which causes, which precipitates, him to have to act or take conduct that results in injury or death to a person.”

The case, he said, involved a “super-frightened boy in a car telling them that he didn’t want to get out of the car.

“One of the first things he said to Deputy Collins when they arrived was, ‘You’re not going to shoot me, are you?’ Well, you know what? They did,” Potts said Wednesday. “They shot him. They shot him to death.

“He said he’s scared, he said he needs other people there ... whether this was drugs mixed with psych issues, whether it’s a psych issue only, does it really matter? He was in a crisis of some kind. Is this how we expect people in crisis to be treated? To scream and yell at them, to shine flashlight into their face, to stand up against the window ... while he’s in the car with his hands above the wheel, terrified?”

McCollum, in her arguments, pointed to inconsistencies — how one defense witness discussed officers’ fears that Christian “might get out of the car and use the knife, but they wanted him out of the car. So did they want him out of the car or did they not want him out of the car?

“How could Christian win that night?” she asked jurors. “Maybe the better question is: How could Christian live that night?”

After sending home two pre-determined alternates, the judge instructed jurors before noon on Wednesday to pick a jury foreperson before beginning deliberations.

Christian called 911 for help late on 10 June 2022 after his car became stuck on rocks on a dirt mountain road near the tiny old mining town of Silver Plume, about 45 miles west of Denver. Christian began speaking of folkloric figures and making other statements that indicated he may have been suffering from some type of mental episode. He told the dispatcher the car contained two knives, a hammer and mallet that could be considered weapons, offering to throw them out of the vehicle upon officers’ arrival.

Buen and his Clear Creek County shift partner, Tim Collins, arrived and then the Clear Creek deputies were soon joined by five other officers from Georgetown, Idaho Springs, Colorado State Patrol and Colorado’s Division of Gaming. Buen’s supervisor, Sgt Kyle Gould, was monitoring remotely and gave permission to breach the vehicle, according to court evidence.

During the attempt at breaching the vehicle, as officers surrounded the car, shouted at Christian, deployed tasers and non-lethal bean bag rounds, he thrashed around and grabbed a small geological knife he’d previously offered to throw out of the car. Buen fired five fatal shots at Christian in the driver’s seat.

Gould pleaded guilty late last year to a reduced charge of duty to intervene and has been stripped of his peace officer certification in Colorado. The other six officers who responded to the scene have also been charged with duty to intervene.

Christian’s parents, Sally and Simon Glass, last year were awarded a landmark $19m settlement in Colorado, the terms of which included enhanced police training in de-escalation tactics and new crisis response practice.

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