A deputy who fatally shot an armed teenager — who was fleeing a crashed, carjacked vehicle — on foot, justifiably used deadly force to protect the public and other officers, according to a review of the officer-involved shooting.
James Daniel Hill, 17, was shot in the back by Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Knudsen about 5:15 a.m. May 31 in Centennial, according to the district attorney’s office review.
Hill and two other males carjacked a 2006 black Nissan Altima about 4:50 a.m. at the Courtney Downs Apartments, 15859 Jamison Drive, the document said. Hill, armed and dressed in a black hoodie, stood in front of the car pointed a gun at the victim and said: “Give us your stuff if you don’t want to get shot.”
The trio robbed the victim of his phone, wallet and car keys, driving off in the carjacked Nissan. They quickly picked up two females who had been with them earlier and were waiting nearby. Meanwhile, the victim ran to his apartment and called 911.
Knudsen, on duty in a marked patrol car and in uniform, responded with his lights and siren. Radio traffic on the carjacking included a description of the stolen vehicle and mentioned that one of the males was armed.
Knudsen, at the intersection of East Dry Creek Road and South Yosemite Street, spotted the Nissan and attempted to angle the carjacked vehicle to head north on Yosemite. When the driver of the Nissan attempted to continue westbound on Dry Creek, Knudsen intentionally struck the rear driver’s side panel of the Nissan with his patrol car. The Nissan spun out and came to a stop. Five occupants, three males and two females, jumped out of the Nissan and ran.
Knudsen, now also on foot and with his gun drawn, chased the suspects. The females split off from the males, and Knudsen pursued the males. One male, holding a handgun as he ran, split from the other two. Knudsen chased the male with the gun.
During the chase, Knudsen had been yelling instructions for the suspects fleeing to stop, put their hands up and get down on the ground, the review said. He had also yelled that he knew they were armed and that he “would shoot.”
As Knudsen chased the armed, lone suspect through the Saddle Ridge Apartment Complex, 8717 East Dry Creek Road, he was concerned about a possible encounter between the fleeing suspect and residents. He was also concerned about the safety of another deputy joining the foot chase and not knowing about the suspect’s weapon, the review said.
Knudsen, concerned that he was about to lose site of the suspect, fired two shots, with one striking the fleeing suspect, later identified as Hill, in the back. Hill went down, dropping the pistol, according to the review. It was later determined that the gun was stolen from Hill’s father.
Knudsen applied pressure on the wound, began CPR and called for help. Hill was taken to Sky Ridge Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. Two of the suspects were captured that morning, and two were not.
Body camera images, physical evidence and testimony of witnesses were part of the investigative process.
Karen Pearson, chief deputy district attorney, said in the review: “Based on the evidence and statements obtained during the investigation I find that Deputy Robert Knudsen reasonably believed that his life was in imminent danger, that James Hill presented an imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death to other police officers and to members of the public and that Deputy Knudsen was acting in self-defense and defense of others when he shot James Hill and the he was justified in eliminating the threat of further harm pursuant” to law.