Transgender person who brandished knife, killed by Denver police after Tasers failed to stop them

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Two weeks after Denver Police shot and killed 52-year-old Miguel Tapia, who was threatening officers with a knife, investigators know little more than Tapia's name and age.

“I do want to acknowledge the tragedy of the death,” said Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas at a press briefing Tuesday. “And also our significant regret at the fact that despite significant efforts to try to identify next of kin, we've not been able to make a family notification as we would've liked and so those efforts will continue.”

Tapia, a trans woman, spoke Spanish, at one point telling the officers something.

“I think translated to mean ‘kill me,’” according to Thomas.

“I don’t think that we’ll ever know what their desire was in that situation,” said Thomas, who referred to Tapia using they/them pronouns. “But certainly the presence of the knife, the proximity that that individual got to those officers with the knife, I think makes their response appropriate.”

At around 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 16, reports came in to police about a person blocking traffic in the area of Broadway and Lawrence Street.

A Denver Park Ranger at the scene called police at 11:45 a.m., reporting that the person was armed with an 8-inch knife and refusing to get out of the road.

Officers quickly responded and found Tapia, and positioned their patrol cars to divert traffic.

The encounter, captured on body camera, lasted only seconds.

One officer told Tapia to put their hands on their head at least three times. Tapia then pulled out a large knife from a bag and advanced quickly towards the officer. A second officer gave commands in Spanish.

Two officers deployed their Tasers. One of the officers deployed his Taser twice.

“The Taser device appeared to have a very brief impact but was not effective in stopping the subject’s intentional movement towards the officers,” said Matt Clark, commander of the major crimes division for the Denver Police Department.

Clark added that Tasers can fail for any number of reasons, but that both officers had successfully deployed these Tasers before.

As Tapia got closer with the knife drawn, both officers opened fire — 12 shots in all, and Tapia fell motionless into the street. Police rendered aid to Tapia after the shooting, and an ambulance arrived quickly, but Tapia was pronounced dead at the scene.

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