Family of Christian Glass agrees to historic $19 million settlement

This is the largest settlement following a police shooting in Colorado history.
Published: May. 23, 2023 at 12:09 PM MDT|Updated: May. 24, 2023 at 8:04 AM MDT
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CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. (KKTV) - The family of a Colorado man shot and killed by police will be awarded a $19 million settlement for his death.

It’s the largest compensation following a deadly police shooting in state history.

“The size of the settlement reflects the immense wrong and injustice committed by the officers that killed Christian, whose death has broken his family and left an immeasurable void,” the family’s attorneys said in a statement Tuesday.

Christian Glass, 22, was shot in June of last year after calling 911 for roadside assistance in Clear Creek County. According to attorney Edward Hopkins, Glass told the 911 dispatcher that he was an amateur geologist and had several tools in his car including a hammer and knife.

“He called because he needed help,” Hopkins told 11 News Tuesday after the settlement was announced. ... He had just finished the day doing something that he enjoyed doing and he wanted to make sure that enforcement officer he spoke with knew that those things were in his car. He made it clear that he was more than willing to throw them out of the car, and he was instructed not to do so and not to touch them.”

The Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office claimed Glass became belligerent while talking to law enforcement.

“Deputies arrived and found a single vehicle, which appeared to have been involved in an accident. The driver and sole occupant, an adult white male, immediately became argumentative and uncooperative with the deputies and had armed himself with a knife. Additional law enforcement officers arrived and for over an hour tried to bring the situation to a peaceful resolution. Deputies were able to break out the car windows and remove one knife. The suspect rearmed himself with a rock and a second knife. Deputies deployed lees-lethal bean bags, and Taser with negative results. The suspect eventually tried to stab an officer and was shot. The suspect was pronounced deceased on scene,” read part of the press release.

Glass’ family charged that the situation wasn’t handled properly.

“From beginning to end, the officers escalated and proactively initiated force,” part of a news release issued Sept. 13, 2022 from Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC Attorneys at Law reads. “Christian had greeted the officers by making a heart sign with his hands. Christian, fully contained in his vehicle and presenting no threat, was eventually surrounded by seven officers with guns drawn from the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office, Idaho Springs Police Department, Georgetown Police Department, Colorado State Patrol, and Colorado Division of Gaming. There was no need to threaten him with force; to draw guns; to break his car window; to fire beanbag rounds from a close distance; to tase him; to shoot him dead. From beginning to end, the officers on scene acted unconscionably and inhumanely. The Glass family agrees with Colorado State Patrol’s on-scene assessment that Christian had committed no crime, posed no threat to himself or others, and there was no reason for continued contact.

“These officers took a gentle, peaceful soul and extinguished it simply because it was ‘time to move the night on.’ The situation was so nonthreatening that the officers joked and laughed seconds before breaking Christian’s windows, about sending in the ‘cute girls.’ And yet, these officers, including the one who killed Christian, are still in uniform and have paid no price for their conduct.”

An internal investigation by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office found that the use of force was not justified, and the two deputies involved were charged; Deputy Andrew Buen with second-degree murder and Deputy Kyle Gould with criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment. Both men were indicted by a grand jury last fall and fired from the sheriff’s office.

According to that indictment, Buen fluctuated “between conversational in tone to being verbally aggressive” while talking to Glass. At some point, a decision was made to remove Glass from his car, despite that “no one on the scene had made a determination that there was probable cause or reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed or was being committed,” the indictment continued.

Body camera footage later released by the law firm shows escalating attempts at getting Glass to exit the vehicle, starting with one deputy jumping on the hood of Glass’ car while another deputy tried to convince him to come out, then escalating with a deputy breaking the passenger window and shooting Glass with bean bags. Glass was then tased and began to swing his knife around in what the indictment stated was a combination of self-defense and panic. As he continued to wave his knife, Glass was shot multiple times.

“Things escalated very quickly,” Hopkins told 11 News. “When law enforcement arrived, there was a breakdown in communication and an avoidable death.”

Throughout the more than two hours of body camera footage released by the firm, Glass can be heard telling law enforcement that he’s not a threat, he’s just scared and needing help.

“In this particular case, Christian was under tremendous stress,” Hopkins said. “And he was exhibiting the signs of that stress. It was difficult for him to understand everything that was happening, difficult for him to follow instructions because of the stress and to the extent that they can get better training that will help them avoid these types of circumstances. deescalate be more patient and wait, particularly when no one is clearly at risk of harm.”

Glass, as seen on body camera footage, making a heart with his hands.  His family's attorneys...
Glass, as seen on body camera footage, making a heart with his hands. His family's attorneys says the gesture was to show deputies he wasn't a threat.(Clear Creek County Sheriff's Office body cam)

Body camera footage and the 72-page report by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office can be found here.

The settlement was with Clear Creek County, the communities of Georgetown and Idaho Springs, and the state of Colorado. In addition to the monetary amount, the settlement includes the following measures by the aforementioned entities:

- Clear Creek County has agreed to dedicate a public park to Christian Glass, which will be selected in consultation with Simon and Sally Glass.

- Clear Creek County has also agreed to establish a dedicated crisis response team in the county by Jan. 1, 2025. In addition, the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to train and certify all its patrol officers in crisis intervention. These agreements recognize the critical importance that law enforcement respond to emergencies, including situations involving mental health crises, with professionalism, empathy, and an emphasis on de-escalation. Simon and Sally Glass will also have the opportunity to speak with new patrol recruits to the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office, to share Christian’s story and emphasize the importance of these issues.

- The state has also agreed to important changes in training for its law enforcement agencies. The Colorado State Patrol will develop a virtual reality (VR) training scenario reflecting Christian’s murder, with a focus on de-escalation in a high-stress situation. This VR training will be named after Christian. In addition, the State Patrol and Division of Gaming will open their statewide ABLE (Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement) training with a video presentation of Simon and Sally Glass explaining the importance of officers’ duty to intervene.

“Christian Glass should be alive today,” the law office said. “This settlement sends a message that such injustice will not be tolerated, and that those responsible will be held accountable -- including those officers who stood by and failed to intervene to protect Christian.”

“I would just like to add that the family really wants to make sure that everyone understands they lost their beautiful son as a result of this tragedy. And the money is the least important thing. Even though the settlement is a record settlement. That’s not what’s important to them. What’s important to them is doing what they can do with the attention that this is drawing to their son to make sure that it doesn’t happen again, to avoidable deaths at the hands of law enforcement without demonizing law enforcement,” Hopkins said.