BWC footage released in fatal OIS of man armed with rifle
Officers shot the suspect after he opened fire at them with an AK-47 rifle; he was pronounced dead at the scene
By Katie Langford
The Denver Post
DENVER — The man shot and killed by Denver police on Nov. 20 after chasing people in Commons Park with an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle and shooting at officers had more than 400 rounds of ammunition on him, Denver Police Department officials said Wednesday.
Investigators have not determined if 42-year-old Joshua Mitchell had a plan when he abandoned his vehicle in the street and walked a mile to Commons Park while carrying an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle and 14 magazines of ammunition covered by a blanket, Cmdr. Matt Clark said in a Wednesday news conference about the investigation.
The department is still working to get information from Mitchell’s cell phone and social media accounts, Clark said.
Police initially responded to reports of a man with a rifle yelling at a group of people and chasing people near 16th and Platte streets at 3:40 p.m. on Nov. 20.
Officers located the man, later identified by the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner as Mitchell, sitting on a bench in the west side of the park with a rifle, Clark said. Officers did not immediately approach Mitchell because he was armed.
Responding officers parked two police vehicles approximately 130 feet from Mitchell, one on the west side of a hill in the center of the park and one on a path to the south of the bench, Clark said.
Mitchell was sitting on the bench when he raised the rifle toward the officer on the hill, who commanded him to drop it before Mitchell started shooting. The officer on the hill and the officer to the south both returned fire.
Police did not hear Mitchell say anything before he began shooting, Clark said. No officers were injured, though a bullet struck a police vehicle.
Body-worn camera footage shows both officers told Mitchell to drop his weapon twice before Mitchell began shooting. He started shooting approximately 15 seconds after the officer on the hill exited his vehicle.
The two officers fired seven rounds during the shooting, Clark said. Police approached him after it appeared he had dropped the rifle to see if they could provide medical aid. Mitchell was pronounced dead by paramedics at the scene.
Police Chief Ron Thomas said officers may have prevented a greater tragedy from occurring that day.
“I want to acknowledge that any time a life is lost it’s certainly a tragedy and I don’t want us to lose sight of that today,” Thomas said. “I do think there’s evidence to suggest that had the officers not taken the actions that they took that there could have been an even greater tragedy given some of the things that we’ve discovered in our investigation.”
Police recovered an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle and a magazine with 33 rounds from Mitchell, which is a larger capacity than permitted by state law.
Mitchell fired the gun five times at police, and bullets struck a building at 1700 Bassett St. People inside reported damage to exterior windows and the inside of two units, Clark said. No one was injured, and it does not appear Mitchell fired the gun before shooting at police.
Mitchell was wearing a tactical vest with no ballistic protection that was loaded with eight magazines of ammunition. An additional five magazines were in a bag next to him, Clark said, and police found another 50 rounds of ammunition in his car.
The preliminary investigation shows Mitchell arrived at a home in northwest Denver where he sometimes stayed earlier in the day, and one of the residents told him to leave because he was intoxicated, Clark said.
Mitchell left the home around 2:40 p.m. and was later involved in a hit-and-run in the 3100 block of West 37th Avenue, where he struck an occupied vehicle and a parked vehicle before driving away.
His car was found inoperable and blocking traffic, likely from the crash, near 33rd Avenue and Clay Street at 3:25 p.m., Clark said. Investigators believe Mitchell walked a mile to Commons Park with a blanket covering the rifle, though his exact path is not clear.
Investigators are waiting for the results of a firearm trace to determine how Mitchell obtained the rifle, Clark said, though it appears it is from out of state and was not reported stolen.
The officers who shot Mitchell will be placed on modified duty while they complete a department reintegration program. One of the officers was involved in a police shooting in 2019, Clark said, and the second has not been involved in a police shooting before the Nov. 20 shooting.
Investigators are still looking to speak with witnesses who may have interacted with Mitchell before the shooting occurred, Clark said.