DA: GJPD officer justified in shooting and killing suspect

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- A Grand Junction police officer who shot and killed a suspect while pinned between the suspect’s car and a building was acting in self-defense and will not be charged, according to a report from District Attorney Dan Rubinstein.

The DA said Officer Jacob Steele, an eight-year veteran officer with GJPD, was justified in shooting and killing 24-year-old Brian Gaither shortly after midnight on November 11, 2016 because “he had no other option than to act with deadly physical force.”

During an interview with investigators with the Critical Incident Response Team, Officer Steele described an escalating series of events that led to the shooting of Gaither.

Officer Steele told investigators he tried to contact Gaither, a parole absconder with a warrant for eluding police and weapons charges, at the gas pumps at the C&F at 859 Pitkin Ave.

Steele said Gaither did not comply with orders to get out of his car. After noticing weapons in the car, Officer Steele tried to grab Gaither and pull him out of his car. Gaither, however, reacted and pulled Officer Steele partially into the car and then drove off at a high rate of speed, with Steele pinned between the door and frame of the car.

According to Steele’s interview, Gaither then drove the car alongside a building dragging Steele, who was only partially in the car, along the building as well. Steele said the car finally crashed into the building and stopped, with Steele “pinched” between the door and the car with his head outside of the car above the roof. Gaither began revving the engine like he was trying to further pin Steele.

Steele told investigators he pulled out his gun and shot Gaither several times without being able to see where he was shooting.

“I felt like I needed to shoot, I felt like that if I didn’t shoot, his points of trying to injure me were going to be more, and I possibly could either die or get hurt very bad,” Officer Steele told investigators.

Assisting GJPD officers had to break windows in the suspect’s vehicle to get the car out of gear so it could be moved to free Officer Steele, according to the report.

Gaither was declared dead at the scene.

Officer Steele was transported to the hospital and treated for abrasions but no serious injuries.

Investigators determined Officer Steele fired 11 rounds from his vehicle, according to the DA’s report. Inside the suspect’s vehicle, investigators found a loaded handgun, a crow bar, methamphetamine, and stolen items.

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