Denver officer fired for not giving first aid to gunshot victim who died
The officer said he didn't try to stop the bleeding because he feared causing more harm to the man
By Elise Schmelzer
The Denver Post
DENVER — A Denver police officer failed to provide first aid to a teenage gunshot victim for more than 10 minutes last year while the 18-year-old bled onto the pavement and pleaded for help before he died, an internal investigation found.
The officer, Dewayne Rodgers, was fired Nov. 22 in connection with the Sept. 7, 2020, incident. Another officer, David Clough, arrived at the scene at the same time and also did not provide first aid, but Clough resigned before the disciplinary investigation finished.
The disciplinary letter explaining Rodgers' dismissal — obtained by The Denver Post through a public records request — does not name the victim, but coroner reports list Jalonte Jones, 18, as the man who died in a shooting on Sept. 7, 2020.
It's unknown whether Jones would've lived had Rodgers, a 16-year veteran of the force, given first aid. The letter does not state whether Jones died at the scene, but indicates he stopped breathing before paramedics arrived.
Mary Dulacki, the Denver Department of Public Safety's chief deputy executive director, wrote in the disciplinary letter that it would be reasonable to assume Jones would've been alive when paramedics arrived had Rodgers acted.
"At no time did Officer Rodgers crouch down near the victim," Dulacki wrote. "At no time did Officer Rodgers touch the victim. At not time did Officer Rodgers offer words of comfort. The callous lack of humanity that Officer Rodgers displayed is best exemplified by his response to the victim saying 'Oh my God, help me,' when Officer Rodgers replied, 'Do you live in this complex?'"
The Denver Police Department said in a statement Thursday that the department opened an internal investigation in the early stages of the homicide investigation after officers had concerns about Rodgers' failure to render aid. Denver police Chief Paul Pazen recommended Rodgers be fired, which Dulacki affirmed. The internal investigation was overseen by the Office of the Independent Monitor, the department said.
Rodgers and Clough responded to a report of shots fired at an apartment complex at 10150 E. Harvard Ave. on Sept. 7, 2020, and found a man lying on his back in the parking lot, bleeding from his lower body. Rodgers approached the man and requested an ambulance over the radio while Clough started stringing crime tape around the area.
In his report from the night of the incident, Rodgers wrote that the victim's pants were so bloody that he couldn't tell which leg was injured. Rodgers later told investigators that he completed first aid and tourniquet training classes and generally carried a tourniquet on duty, but that he'd forgotten it that night.
Rodgers told investigators he didn't try to find the wound or stop the bleeding because he feared causing more harm to the man. Instead, he decided to talk to the man to try to keep him alert.
"I made the determination that I should not touch him, because he's in dire straits at this point," Rodgers told investigators, according to the letter. "He's bleeding out. He can barely move, and he can barely talk to me at all. With all that going on, I made the determination that I can't touch him. I didn't want to fish around for the injury and do more harm."
Rodgers' body camera recorded him speaking with Jones for minutes. He repeatedly asked Jones who shot him and what his name was.
Jones did not often respond, but when he did, he repeatedly said, "I'm dying" or "I can't breathe."
Minutes into their interaction, Rodgers asked the victim, "Are you going to tell me what happened? Do you know what happened?"
"Oh my God, help me," Jones responded.
Rodgers' camera footage shows he did not provide any medical aid to Jones for the more than 10 minutes he was on scene prior to the arrival of Denver Fire, according to the letter. Twice, he walked away from the bleeding man.
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Rodgers never informed dispatchers that the man's health was deteriorating, asked Clough whether he had a tourniquet or requested an officer with a tourniquet come to the scene. Rodgers also only asked the victim once where he had been shot.
"Officer Rodgers' claim that he was concerned about aggravating the injury cannot excuse the lack of care he demonstrated since the foreseeable outcome of failing to render aid was death, which significantly outweighs any concern of aggravating an injury," Dulacki wrote.
Clough told investigators that he assessed the victim's injuries as life-threatening but assumed Rodgers was applying first aid.
The day Rodgers was fired for his inaction that day in 2020 he was simultaneously fired for not complying with the city's COVID-19 vaccine mandate, records show.
Denver police arrested a suspect in Jones' death on Sept. 8, 2020 — the day after the shooting. Online court records show the suspect, D'Andre Horton, was charged with four counts of first-degree murder, but that prosecutors dismissed those charges. Horton pleaded guilty to first-degree assault in October and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
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