No criminal charges for Denver officer killing an armed suspect that was holding a driver hostage
Three Denver Police officers who shot and killed an armed suspect in Broomfield last year have been cleared of criminal charges, the 17th District Attorney’s Office said.
Denver's detectives James Waidler, Jay Lopez and Cole Connors all fired shots at Anthony Lainez during an armed carjacking and hostage situation on Sept. 29, 2022, the DA’s decision letter said.
“Given the totality of the cirstances and evidence, the prosecution cannot prove that the involved officers were not justified in using deadly physical force,” the letter said.
The Denver Police Department Fugitive Unit detectives were looking for Lainez, who police said was connected to a homicide, and tracked him to a residence in Broomfield.
The DA’s office said detectives watched Lainez leave the home with a woman and drive off in a Ford Edge with temporary New Mexico tags. Broomfield Police Department officers, who had been called in for backup and tried to stop Lainez, but he drove around them and took off.
Lainez was driving recklessly according to the DA’s letter, and when he went to turn left onto East Midway Boulevard he lost control and crashed into another car in the intersection. Both Lainez and the woman got out of the Edge and ran to a Toyota Corolla that had stopped after the crash.
Lainez got in the front passenger’s seat and the woman hopped in the back passenger’s side, the letter said. Lainez allegedly held a gun to the driver’s ribs and told him to “go” but the driver pulled the keys out of the ignition and tried to esc.
According to the DA’s office, Lainez grabbed the driver and pulled him back into the car. Undercover Denver detectives in police tactical gear showed up, and Waidler yelled for Lainez to show his hands.
“Mr. Lainez appeared to hold the victim as a shield between himself and Detective Waidler as he pulled the victim back inside the Corolla,” the DA’s decision letter said.
Detective Lopez drove his truck near the Corolla to distract Lainez, got out, and “ran up to the front quarter panel of the Corolla to break the windshield with the muzzle of his rifle,” the letter said.
Lainez pulled out a gun and shot Lopez in the neck, according to the DA’s office. Lopez shot at Lainez while dropping to the ground. During that shootout, Waidler “pulled the carjacking victim by the arm and returned fire at Mr. Lainez, seated in the driver’s seat. The carjacking victim fell to the ground,” the letter said.
Lainez got out of the car with a gun in his hands, the DA’s doent said, and moved toward Waidler, who was on the ground. Waidler fired several shots that struck Lainez and caused him to drop to the ground.
Detective Connors was the third officer on scene and as he was putting his tactical gear on, he heard gunshots but did not know who was firing them, the DA’s letter said. He then saw Lainez on the ground reaching for his gun and yelled at him, “Don’t grab the gun!”
“Mr. Lainez ignored the command and reached for the handgun, causing Detective Connors to fear for the safety of everyone in the immediate area. Detective Connors fired his handgun at Mr. Lainez until he stopped moving and was no longer a threat to anyone,” the letter said.
Lainez died at the scene. Lopez survived and spent nearly a month and a half in the hospital.
Lainez tested positive for cocaine and methamphetamine, and a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun was found near his body at the scene, the DA’s letter said.
Additional guns and ammunition, drugs and $1,000 in cash were found inside the Corolla.
The woman involved with Lainez, Sky Toya, was arrested and charged with aggravated robbery, possession of a controlled substance and first-degree criminal trespass. She was sentenced to 12 years in prison on April 27.