DA says cops justified in fatal I-70 shooting
Police in July “absolutely had no choice” but to shoot a man — who was shot at least 14 times — after he’d crashed his truck while fleeing pursuing officers on Interstate 70 and displayed a pellet gun during a standoff, Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said today.
Shawn Payne, 36, emerged from the rear of his wrecked truck with what appeared to be a gun in his right hand the morning of July 9, Hautzinger said. Investigation showed Payne was holding a black semi-automatic style Powerline 201 pellet gun, he said.
“I am totally convinced that it was impossible for anyone involved to determine that the weapon the suspect was holding was a pellet gun and not an actual firearm,” Hautzinger said.
The DA’s observations were made while releasing results of an investigation into Payne’s death by Mesa County’s Critical Incident Response Team. Hautzinger formally cleared the six SWAT team officers involved: Grand Junction police officers Caleb Church, Tom Rayside, as well as Mesa County Sheriff’s Department deputies Blake McClellan, Garth Cowley, as well as Cpl. Jamie Pennay and Cpl. Marco Montz.
Payne was wanted by authorities as the suspect in a July 8 incident at a Target store in Lakewood, 14500 W. Colfax Ave. A woman told police a man tried to sexually assault her while she was loading groceries into her pickup. She managed to break free, run inside the store and call 911 as the suspect sped away in her truck.
The stolen truck was spotted by a Sheriff’s Department investigator the next morning around 6:47 a.m. at West Gate Inn. A pursuit westbound on I-70, which topped speeds of 90 mph, ended when the truck was forced off the road by a Colorado State Patrol trooper.
A standoff involving a large contingent of officers at the crash site ended at 9:08 a.m., when the first “shots fired call” was aired.
Read the full story in Wednesday’s Daily Sentinel.