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May 08, 2006
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Denver police: Man pointed fake gun before officers fatally shot him

The Associated Press

DENVER- Police fatally shot a suspected car thief after he pulled out a fake gun and pointed at officers, investigators said.

It was the second fatal shooting involving Denver police in three weeks.

The car was stolen Saturday in suburban Aurora. Denver police surrounded the vehicle and ordered the man to get down on the ground, police said. Instead, he pulled out the plastic gun, police said.

Three officers appeared to have fired shots during the confrontation and have been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, police spokesman John White said.

The suspect was pronounced dead at Denver Health hospital, White said. The man's name was not released.

Police Chief Gerry Whitman on Sunday defended the actions of the officers.

"They needed to make a quick decision, and the first decision I expect them to make is to protect themselves," he said. "I don't know if the suspect was treating it as a toy, but he pointed it at uniformed officers. Obviously, they took that very seriously."

Whitman described the fake gun as a replica that may have been designed to fire darts or pellets. "It's definitely not a toy," he said.

Two men who were with the suspect have been arrested on automobile theft charges, White said. Michael Romero, 32, and Dale Sirratt, 21, were being held at the Denver city jail.

On April 20, an officer shot and killed a suspected burglar who was speeding toward him in a car in a parking garage, police said. The district attorney's office said officer Rick Nixon would not be charged because the suspect's car was considered a deadly weapon under state law.

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