DENVER − The family of a Colorado man shot to death by police during a mental health crisis will receive $19 million in compensation from law enforcement, one of the biggest such settlements in U.S. history.
The family of Christian Glass, 22, is also forcing a series of training changes among the law enforcement agencies that were present during the June 11, 2022, incident. The settlement is the largest ever in Colorado, the family’s attorneys said.
The officer who shot Glass and his supervisor are being criminally prosecuted. The responding police agencies have also been criticized because none of the other officers tried to stop the shooting.
Nationally, police agencies are under pressure to alter their responses to incidents like this one by better incorporating mental health and de-escalation training into their responses.
“This settlement sends a message that such injustice will not be tolerated, and that those responsible will be held accountable − including those officers who stood by and failed to intervene to protect Christian,” lawyers for Glass’ family said in a statement. “The size of the settlement reflects the immense wrong and injustice committed by the officers that killed Christian, whose death has broken his family and left an immeasurable void.”
What happened in the Christian Glass shooting?
Glass got his car stuck in a small mountain town, called 911 for help and then refused to get out of the vehicle when police ordered him.
Police initially portrayed Glass as aggressive and threatening, but body-camera footage showed him panicking before police smashed his window and shocked him with a Taser. When he pulled out a small knife, officers shot him five times. The 911 recordings indicate Glass was hallucinating and having mental health issues when the police arrived. As part of the settlement, law enforcement agencies acknowledged they issued an inaccurate press release.
SON’S SHOOTING:Colorado parents say 22-year-son fatally shot by police was in mental health crisis
What changes are happening?
The law enforcement agencies involved agreed to increase the amount of training they provide to officers, partner police with mental health workers in some cases and require officers to view a recorded video from Glass’ parents. Some of his artwork will also be displayed in state buildings, and a park near where he was shot will be dedicated in his honor. Officers from multiple agencies responded to Glass’ car to back up each other, court documents show, but poor communication between them meant no one took charge, particularly in trying to de-escalate the situation.
“I have three teenagers and one young adult child. I cannot imagine the agony and pain the Glass family is experiencing in losing Christian,” Idaho Springs Police Chief Nate Buseck said in a statement. “We, in law enforcement, need to do a much, much better job. This outcome is not acceptable, and all law enforcement officers need to remember why we signed up to do this job … and that is to help people.”
What are the national implications?
Civil rights attorneys say they are using these cases to force needed changes within police departments, in part, by making training and protocol revisions a mandatory part of settlements.
Last year, the Denver suburb of Aurora agreed to pay a $15 million settlement following the 2019 death of Elijah McClain, a Black man who was thrown to the ground, choked and injected with a sedative after someone reported he looked suspicious walking down the street. As part of that settlement, multiple agencies agreed to change their training and response protocols.
And in 2021, the city of Minneapolis agreed to pay $27 million to the family members of George Floyd, who was murdered by a police officer. That settlement also required training and response changes by the police.