Officers cleared in shooting fatality
Police in July “absolutely had no choice” but to shoot a man—who was shot at least 14 times—after he displayed a pellet gun during a standoff on Interstate 70, Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said Tuesday.
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.
Visual evidence from photographs and videos, which were taken at the shooting scene by officers, “speaks volumes,” the DA said.
An image released late Tuesday by the Grand Junction Police Department appears to show a person trying to exit a truck, pointing a black handgun.
The DA’s observations were made as the results of an investigation into Payne’s shooting death by Mesa County’s Critical Incident Response Team were released. Hautzinger formally cleared the six SWAT team officers involved: Grand Junction police officers Caleb Church and Tom Rayside, as well as Mesa County Sheriff’s Department deputies Blake McClellan and Garth Cowley, as well as Cpl. Jamie Pennay and Cpl. Marco Montez.
“The officers involved did everything which could reasonably be expected to avoid this situation ending in a fatality,” Hautzinger said. “Less lethal munitions were deployed when possible and that still failed to get the suspect to comply and cooperate. When the suspect came out the back of the truck with a gun in his right hand the officers involved had absolutely no choice but to fire their weapons.”
Investigation showed the only weapons fired at the scene were the officers’ .223 caliber rifles. Twenty-two shots were fired. Three CS gas rounds were also fired at the truck, before the fatal shots rang out, the DA said.
Fourteen of the 22 rifle shots hit Payne, causing “significant injury” to the brain, internal chest and abdominal organs with internal bleeding, the DA said. A toxicology report showed evidence of recent marijuana use, but no other drugs or alcohol.
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 assailant sped away in her truck.
Lakewood police on Tuesday didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The stolen truck was spotted by a sheriff’s investigator the next morning around 6:47 a.m. at West Gate Inn. A pursuit involving the stolen truck westbound on I-70, which topped speeds of 90 mph, ended when it 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.