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
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,
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
"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,"
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.
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"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.