The tragedy at the Timbers

It is easy, in the calm of your living room or the comfort of your office, to decide with clear-headed logic what two Grand Junction police officers should have done when they were confronted by a drunk and belligerent man at the Timbers Motel Feb. 28.

It’s quite another thing to make split-second decisions when that drunk and belligerent man lunges toward you or your partner, one hand — with a knife in it — raised menacingly above his head.

Even so, officers Allen Kwiatkowski and Isaac Gallegos reacted quickly and within the parameters of appropriate police behavior when they shot and killed Brent Ingram that day, according to a report released this week by District Attorney Pete Hautzinger.

“I am unable to see any reasonable way for the officers to have done anything differently,” Hautzinger wrote, after reviewing the results of an investigation into the shooting conducted by an investigator with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department.

No doubt some people in this community won’t accept Hautzinger’s conclusion. They’ll see his report and the investigation by the Sheriff’s Department employee as a whitewash — law enforcement officials simply protecting their colleagues.

We don’t believe that’s the case. Hautzinger and Sheriff’s Department authorities have an interest in ensuring there aren’t trigger-happy cops blasting away at citizens with little provocation. That would make their own jobs more difficult.

And that isn’t what occurred with Kwiatkowski and Gallegos. The fact is, bad things happen when you’re extremely drunk — Ingram’s blood-alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit for driving — and attack police officers with a weapon.

The Monday morning quarterbacking will continue, of course. No doubt the two officers have asked themselves if they might have done things differently.

But several important questions have been addressed.

For one thing, Kwiatkowski was reaching for his Taser, hoping to resolve the confrontation in a less-violent manner, when Ingram lunged at him with the knife. It was then that the officers fired their weapons at him.


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