Friday, June 18, 2010
Friends Criticize Police Shooting
By Astrid Galvan
Journal Staff Writer
The death of a Northeast Heights man shot during a standoff with police last week was a senseless killing, his friends said at a candlelight vigil Thursday.
At least three of the dozens of vigil attendees spoke out against the police actions that led to the death of 43-year-old Chris Hinz last Thursday at his home in the 5500 block of Carruthers NE.
Friends also honored Hinz and spoke of his kindness, generosity and devotion to his daughter, who recently graduated from Eldorado High.
But between touching anecdotes and humorous stories, there were friends and neighbors expressing concern over how police handled the situation.
Police said they shot Hinz because he was holding a high-powered rifle and they feared for their safety.
His friends are not content with the answers they've gotten from officials so far. At the vigil, they vowed to attend a City Council meeting Monday to publicly question the police department. Already, some neighbors have been sending e-mails to city officials demanding answers.
Randy King, whose mother lives next door to the Hinz residence, said it didn't make sense that Hinz would be despondent, as police have said.
He said Hinz recently got a new puppy, redid his backyard and landed a new job.
"Something is not right here," King said. "I really have the feeling that they didn't care to save him."
Police Chief Ray Schultz said the incident is still under investigation but said it is policy to shoot a suspect when an officer feels threatened or determines others around are in danger.
It is also policy to shoot a suspect in the largest target area, which is usually around the chest.
"This is all stuff that happens very, very quickly, and we have to train our officers to do what's most effective," he said.
"You can't try shooting at somebody's hand when people are moving and things are happening. It's impractical."
Officials review department policy after every officer-involved shooting, Schultz said. They look at whether there were deficiencies in training, policy or equipment.
"We always look at that to see if there's something that needs to be changed or tweaked or verified," Schultz said. "We look at every case to see if there's something we could do better."
Police were dispatched to Hinz's home around 8:30 p.m. June 10 after neighbors reported seeing him walking around outside intoxicated and holding a weapon, Schultz said.
When officers arrived, the garage door was open, but they couldn't see the man.
Schultz said officers repeatedly tried to make contact with Hinz but got no response. They called his cell phone and home phone.
While officers were outside, they heard gunshots coming from inside the home. A couple of minutes later, they heard more shots inside the house, and a tactical team was called in, Schultz said.
Officers tried several times to contact Hinz but had no success. Hinz eventually came to the front door but refused to come out. A few minutes later, he exited the garage armed with the rifle and began approaching officers, Schultz said.
Two tactical team officers shot at Hinz, who died on scene.