Denver police officer who shot and injured man wielding machete will not face criminal charges

A Denver police officer who shot and injured a machete-wielding man will not face criminal charges in connection to the incident, prosecutors announced Monday.

The officer, Samuel Bailey, also inadvertently fired bullets into an occupied van parked on the street nearby, though no bystanders were injured. Denver District Attorney Beth McCann found that Bailey’s decision to shoot Heber Gonzalez was justified because Bailey reasonably believed he was in imminent danger.

“Multiple witnesses believed that Officer Bailey was in danger of being killed,” McCann wrote in her letter to Denver police Chief Paul Pazen explaining her decision. “Officer Bailey personally believed the same. When faced with this lethal threat, Officer Bailey reasonably believed that no lesser amount of force would be adequate to defend himself.”

Bailey responded on Sept. 26 to calls that a man was walking around near Russell Square Park and threatening people while holding a machete, according to the letter. When Bailey arrived at the intersection of North Vine Street and East 37th Avenue, the officer asked the man, later identified as Gonzalez, to drop the weapon.

Instead of complying, Gonzalez charged at Bailey without saying a word, according to the letter.

Bailey fired seven bullets and Gonzalez dropped to the ground a few feet from the officer’s police car. Gonzalez was transported to a hospital and survived.

One of Bailey’s bullets struck a nearby van, in which a woman and her 12-year-old daughter were sitting. The bullet traveled through the driver’s side door and lodged in the steering column, but did not strike anyone.

Prosecutors on Oct. 5 charged Gonzalez with first-degree assault, menacing and possession of a weapon by a previous offender in connection to the incident.

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