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'Am I Proud of This? No. But Why Do I Have To Be Tortured ... And Tried in The Media?' Say Denver Officers on Recent Shooting

July 15, 2004
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'Am I Proud of This? No. But Why Do I Have To Be Tortured ... And Tried in The Media?' Say Denver Officers on Recent Shooting

Officers, public watch closely as police shooting is investigated

By Dan Elliott, The Associated Press

DENVER (AP) -- The latest fatal shooting by a Denver police officer and the ensuing media uproar is weighing heavily on rank-and-file cops, a police union official said Friday.

Mike Mosco, president of the Denver Police Protective Association, said officers are feeling beleaguered by the reaction.

"They're looking at it like, 'If I become involved in a situation like that, how much grief do I have to take? Am I proud of this? No. But why do I have to be tortured? Why do I have to be tried in the media?"' he said.

Frank Lobato, a 63-year-old invalid, was shot to death Sunday when police swept through his home looking for a domestic violence suspect. Officer Ranjan Ford Jr. mistook a can of soda in Lobato's hands for a weapon and fired a bullet into his chest, police said.

It was the 11th fatal shooting by a Denver police officer in the past 16 months. Ford, a three-year veteran, was placed on paid leave after the shooting.

Police Chief Gerry Whitman could not say Friday when the investigation would be completed and the results turned over to District Attorney Bill Ritter.

The FBI is monitoring the investigation and U.S. Attorney John Suthers will review Ritter's findings. No decision has been made on whether to begin a civil rights investigation, said Jeff Dorschner, Suthers' spokesman.

An associate attorney general in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department will make that call, Dorschner said.

Ritter began looking into the death immediately, arriving at the scene within minutes of the shooting, said his spokeswoman, Lynn Kimbrough.

"Once all the facts are gathered and the case file is here for our review, he will launch an in-depth legal review of all those facts," she said.

Police critics are already skeptical about the investigation, citing previous inquiries that have cleared officers in fatal shootings. Denver CopWatch, a citizen police monitoring group, has said that over the past 11 years, 14 deaths at police hands were questionable.

CopWatch members did not immediately return phone calls Friday.

Since taking office in 1993, Ritter has never brought criminal charges against a Denver officer in a fatal shooting.

Kimbrough defended Ritter's record.

"All of those shooting cases are open to scrutiny and have been scrutinized by media and attorneys. In all of the scrutiny in the past 10 years, there's been no additional questions about whether criminal charges should or could have been filed," she said.

Mosco, the police union official, said he was sure the police investigation will be thorough.

Associated PressCopyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

"I'm positive it will be fair, and I'm also positive many people in the public and the media are going to put a spin on it that it's not impartial and it's not fair," he said.

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