Three Denver cops mistakenly thought they were pursuing an attempted murder suspect who had escaped jail on March 19 when they opened fire on 27-year-old Steven Nguyen’s SUV, killing him.
Nguyen was shot almost 50 times.
Nguyen’s passenger 23-year-old Rafael Landeros was wounded, but survived the shooting.
It turned out, they shot the wrong guys.
The suspect, Mauricio Venzor-Gonzalez, who was on the lam from attempted murder charges after shooting at a police officer in November before escaping jail, was not inside the SUV.
In fact, police had mistakenly identified Nguyen as Venzor-Gonzalez when they began pursuing Nguyen.
Venzor-Gonzalez, 23, had been arrested earlier in the year after shooting at the officer, according to the Denver Post.
Even though Denver police officers William Bohm, Austin Barela and Susan Mercado shot the wrong people while looking for Venzor-Gonzalez, Denver Police Commander Barb Archer, declared the shooting justified because the officers believed they were actually pursuing Venzor-Gonzalez.
And since the people inside of the SUV did not follow orders, officers “feared for their safety.”
“Officers knew that Venzor-Gonzalez had been arrested in November for attempting to kill a police officer,” Archer said after watching the video.
“They believed the actions being made inside the car were efforts to locate a weapon. So fearing for their safety the officers fired.”
It happened as Denver police were monitoring Venzor-Gonzalez’s home after he escaped from deputies at Denver Health hospital on March 18.
An SUV with two men inside circled the block near Venzor-Gonzalez’s home.
Police believed the SUV to be Venzor-Gonzalez.
Officers were granted permission to pursue the SUV.
Nguyen fled, at times reaching speeds of around 100 MPH.
Video shows when officers stop the car, Nguyen and Landeros don’t have much time to comply before officers open fire, spraying their SUV with bullets.
The SUV then rolls down an embankment where officers claim they could see the occupants looking for something inside.
And that, they say, prompted them to fire a second round of shots as the SUV comes to a stop.
“This level of excess is particularly egregious because it was fueled by a dispatch from detectives who could not positively identify the passenger in Steven’s car, but falsely reported ‘to a 100 percent certainty’ that he was an escapee wanted for shooting at police,” Nguyen family attorney Spencer Bryan said in a statement
Watch footage of the incident, shown from three different body cam perspectives, above.
Listen to Denver Police Commander Barb Archer’s explanation about the incident during a March 22 press conference below.