Zach Gifford killed by police as town stayed silent – Denver, Colorado

Denver, Colorado 2021-03-18 08:00:43 –

part 2: This is the second of a two-part story about police killings in the eastern plains in April 2020, and was silenced during national and state-wide turmoil against excessive forces.

Kiowa County, Colorado – Deputy Sheriff Tracy Weisenhorn and Deputy Quinten Stamp of Kiowa County shot and killed 39-year-old Zack Gifford after a traffic outage, and their boss, Sheriff Casey Sheridan, took them on paid leave. I made it.

The investigation has begun. The Prowers County Sheriff’s Office and the Colorado Research Department worked together, with CBI investigators processing the site and conducting interviews with officers.

In May, while the investigation was still underway, residents of Kiowa County called a local newspaper and said they found Weisenhorn in uniform driving a police car. gun.

The sheriff’s office said in response to the inquiry that police were following the policy. This policy, unlike the policies of many other departments throughout the state, does not require officers to submit badges or guns during paid leave.

Two months after the investigation was completed, in August, before the district attorney decided whether to prosecute, Weisenhorn joined Sheridan and others on a trip to the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. Weisenhorn posted a photo of the trip on her Facebook page.

“I got home from Sturgis. It was a lot of fun. It’s best to run away with a great friend,” she posted 80 photos from a trip that included one of the sheriffs on August 11. I wrote while writing.

This trip caused a turmoil among the inhabitants who were still in the dark about the results of the investigation. Sheridan has not yet answered the question about taking a vacation with his sheriff while the criminality of her role in killing Gifford is still questioned.

Stump and Weisenhorn rejected some requests for the interview.

The Kiowa County Commission also made no public statement about the stump, Weisenhorn, or Gifford killings in general. “They were advised. They don’t feel comfortable,” said county administrator Tina Adamson. Gifford’s death was “a subject we hardly know,” she said on March 5.

By that time, a 57-page affidavit explaining what had happened was available on request for almost two months.

The killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Elijah McLean in Aurora were both police forces, causing protests nationwide and in cities and towns throughout Colorado. Following the turmoil over police overpower, the Colorado General Assembly banned police officers from using deadly force against suspected minor or non-violent crimes, and other police officers did. It passed a drastic police reform law requiring police to intervene if witnessed. The law also provides for police officers in state courts who violate the civil rights of those who are personally responsible.

These measures have passed two months after Gifford’s murder and will not take effect until 2023.

Brian Morrell, 52, of Brandon, Colorado, was seen here on November 6, 2020, and his friend Zack Gifford, who has been with him for more than a decade, has two Kiowa County sheriffs while transportation is stopped. I saw him shot by a member of the government office. (Photo courtesy of Marc Piscotty, via Colorado News Collaborative)

Why silence?

Some of Gifford’s friends considered protesting shortly after the shooting, but the pandemic stopped them.

“And everything happened with George Floyd, and it was … like everywhere,” says Gifford’s buddy Jamie Crockett. “And we didn’t want (our protest) to be swept away by all that anger and hatred, and we knew it would.”

Doris Lessenden was a former Gifford art teacher and neighbor. She withheld the decision to shoot until she learned about the three shots on his back. “Of course, I’m angry,” she said, quickly distinguishing that feeling from the Black Lives Matter protest she saw on television.

“It’s a kind of sneaky behavior for me.”

“I think people in our community are, in a nutshell, less solid and less radical than doing it. We feel justice, and God plans for this. And we don’t know what the plan is, and we all have to suffer some kind of persecution, “she says.

“I know what’s in my heart, and my feelings, but I tried to write nothing and say nothing. I should even talk about it. Not. “

Jimmy Brown, director of a local funeral home and elected county coroner, often wonders how small Brandon’s traffic escalated to murder. But he chose to hold his tongue. “I don’t want to mix my personal feelings with my professional obligations, so I have to be very careful.”

Gifford’s friend Josh Brown (not related to Jimmy) attributed his silence to threats from Sheridan. “No one talks about it here, I’m afraid of a backlash from the sheriff’s department,” he says of Gifford’s murder. “To tell the truth, it is illegal to speak in Kiowa County …. we need to investigate.”

Others speak in a small community, point their fingers at a security officer who is also a neighbor, a father with a child at school and a nephew bagging groceries at the market, a bike with some Show discomfort to a man hunting or riding your friend.

“Many people talk about it,” said Gifford’s neighbor, Shoni McKnight. “It’s not loud.”

“People in Eastern Planes have a way of thinking. We’re the kind of people we’ve been waiting for,” says Joe Shields, Mayor of Eads. “If someone makes a mistake or does something wrong, we don’t call them what they did.”

There was one permanent exception in town to this implicit rule. It’s Jeff Campbell, a prolific writer of letters to editors who independently attempted to keep Gifford’s death in the public spotlight.

Campbell, 70, is a retired police officer and investigator who is a judge in Ease’s municipality. Although he has lived in the town for 18 years, he is still an outsider, yet more comfortable to ask difficult questions.

He said he hired Gifford for a repair job many years ago and rehired him several times for others around his home and property. “He did what he said he would do, he didn’t fool me, and he didn’t hesitate to redo what he didn’t do (right). Whenever he met him, he did. I haven’t seen any hesitant lines because I thought they were sideways or violent, “he wrote to the editor. Kiowa County Independence About two weeks after Gifford’s murder.

As soon as he realized that his interest in the case was personal and unrelated to the obligations of his local judge, Campbell has been writing about it weekly ever since. Using his experience in law enforcement, he explained typical police standards and procedures and told readers what to expect in terms of transparency and accountability in investigating and claiming decisions.

“I don’t remember press conferences from Kiowa and Prowers County four weeks after Zack Gifford was shot dead in Brandon on April 9, 2020. What’s happening? The longer you wait, the longer you wait. Questions and doubts arise. The longer you wait, the more stinking you get, “Campbell wrote on May 6.

When no arrest, prosecution, or proceeding was dated by June, he said he was “not alone” and told him that the “scores” of frustrated people seemed to be the inaction of the authorities. did. He wrote about community anxiety, police fear, and the “blue code” that protects villains.

“All of you need to stand,” he begged his fellow residents in a letter on February 25. “You know how to do that. I pray for your soul.”

But no one has it.

Public criticism of sheriffs and district attorneys is one of Colorado’s most politically conservative communities and will cause defeat, says rancher Laura Negray. “No county is in favor of law enforcement as much as Kiowa County.”

She also sees the silence of the community, and her own silence, as a tribute to Gifford’s parents.

“Larry and Carla are not agitators. They are peace lovers. Maybe we are waiting for someone in the family to say’We are hurt. They hurt us badly.”

46:04 PM-Rally and Carla ...
Larry and Carragifford, both 69 years old, wiped their tears while talking about their son Zack at his home in Colorado Springs on February 13, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Marc Piscotty, via Colorado News Collaborative)


For nine months, Gifford didn’t know some of the most basic things about what happened. Such ones tapped their son before shooting him, after which Weisenhorn handcuffed him. So instead of sending condolences about his son’s death, they called for information from the Kiowa county authorities who didn’t call. In Gifford’s view, the detours required by some government agencies and the obfuscation when some officials process information have changed from bureaucracy to cruelty. And they even stopped trying to ask.

Twelve days after 2021, the couple were informed that the stump had been arrested. He is free with a $ 100,000 deposit. Carla Gifford tried to read the affidavit that accompanies the arrest warrant, but had to stop. Every night, Larry Gifford absorbed the details and stepped into the affidavit. They both say they were able to quickly explain what happened to their son, but they didn’t explain anything.

Two weeks later, a five-page court document filed by district attorney Josh Vogel sentenced the stump to three felony sentences. The scope of each judgment is 10 to 32 years. If there is a trial, it can take several months or more.

There is no official count on the number of Colorado law enforcement officers charged with criminal charges for killing people on duty. However, prosecutions are so rare that an informal investigation of state-wide officers, lawyers, scholars, civil rights defenders, and observers has resulted in five cases across the state since 2000. Most did not lead to conviction.

Gifford et al. State that they do not understand why murder charges against stumps are secondary rather than primary, and why they are preceded by the word “trial.” “Zack hasn’t been attempted to die,” they say.

The family wants to know why Weisenhorn has not been charged either. Especially if she stopped the traffic, tasted her son first, and fired twice, including the first shot.

“It was our son. It feels like things weren’t done properly,” says Carla. “This is a situation where you think you know a person, and you do something like this, and you realize that you don’t know.”

Tired of the county’s unanswered response, Gifford hired Denver-based civil rights lawyer John Holland in February. In a 12-page letter to the county commissioner, the Netherlands wrote that Gifford had been tapped long enough to find out that the stump and Weisenhorn did not have a gun. He cites the US Supreme Court’s ruling that law enforcement officers must not use lethal force against fugitive suspects who have not raised “a threat of serious physical harm” to police officers or others. did. The county’s failure to discipline Weisenhorn or stumps for shooting “indicates that the sheriff has approved the act and its rationale,” he added.

The Netherlands wrote that the county was responsible for Gifford’s death.

He says he wants to meet with the county commissioner soon and ask questions that haven’t been answered for too long.

Questions such as “Where is Zack’s Justice?” Says Larry.

And, as Carla says, “Where is the protest?”

This story was brought to you by COLab. Colorado News Collaborative, A coalition of over 100 media outlets.You can reach sue green

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