A Colorado police officer will not face criminal charges for fatally shooting a man who was hailed as a hero for preventing a mass shooting by killing a gunman who targeted police and killed an officer in June, First Judicial District Attorney Alexis King announced this week.
An investigation conducted by the First Judicial District Critical Incident Response Team found that Arvada Police Officer Kraig Brownlow’s use of deadly force was legally justified “to defend himself and others from the perceived threat” posed by John Hurley, according to King’s decision letter.
Police say Hurley, 40, confronted the gunman, identified as Ronald Troyke, after Troyke had shot and killed Arvada police officer Gordon Beesley near Arvada’s Olde Town Square.
“We hope that this provides answers for all of those who are affected and that everyone impacted can start to find closure,” said Arvada Police Department Public Information Officer Dave Snelling in a statement to CNN. “We stand by our original statement that Hurley is a hero who saved lives.”
Snelling said there is still a pending internal review in accordance with department policy to determine any disciplinary action taken, if any, against Brownlow.
CNN has attempted to reach the city of Arvada, which is representing Brownlow, for a statement on his behalf, but did not immediately hear back.
How the incident unfolded
On June 21, Beesley, a 19-year veteran of the police department, was working general patrol and responded to Arvada’s Olde Town on a call from Troyke’s brother asking for a wellness check because his brother was going to do “something crazy,” according to an earlier statement from the police department.
Beesley and another officer attempted to do a wellness check at Troyke’s residence but were unable to make contact with him, the statement said. Police then received a “suspicious person call” in Arvada’s Olde Town Square.
Beesley parked his vehicle and walked through an alley toward the Olde Town Square when Troyke pulled into the area in a truck and parked behind him, police said. Troyke ran after Beesley and yelled at him before shooting the officer twice, according to police. Beesley didn’t reach for his gun and took no defensive action, the statement said.
Three Arvada officers, including Brownlow were working as part of APD’s Community Outreach Resource and Enforcement (CORE) unit, which works with an unhoused community in the area, when they heard “three loud bangs or booms,” according to King’s letter.
The officers heard another series of bangs and looked outside of the CORE office window when they saw “a man carrying an AR15 black carbine-style rifle with a long magazine, dressed in black, wearing an old-style ski mask and a black floppy hat,” the letter says. The officers then alerted the police radio to an active shooter and gave a description of the man in black, who was later identified as Troyke, according to the letter.
“The officers tried to plan for the man reaching the square where they knew he would encounter people walking through the area, to the library, a restaurant, or other midday errand,” according to the letter.
The three officers dispersed to different parts of the office building and Brownlow was standing at the east door of the building with his weapon drawn and pointed at the window, the letter says.
Police said Troyke returned to his truck after he shot Beesley, retrieved an AR-15 and walked back towards the Olde Town Square.
Brownlow watched the suspect walk back towards the square while holding his rifle “up and by the pistol grip,” the letter says.
Hurley confronted the gunman in the square and fatally shot him with a handgun, according to the police statement.
Meanwhile, Brownlow lost sight of the suspect’s body and then heard a third round of gunfire but could not see him or any other individual firing a weapon, King’s letter says.
Suddenly, a man with a red shirt holding a rifle and a handgun – later identified as Hurley – stepped into Brownlow’s view and appeared to be either reloading the rifle or trying to fix something while holstering his pistol, the letter says.
“Unlike the man in black, the man in red’s focus on the firearms rendered him stationary and Brownlow took that opportunity to fire three rounds and the man fell to the ground. Brownlow aired ‘shots fired’ on the radio,” the letter says.
King said that while Hurley’s acts “were nothing short of heroic,” the facts from Brownlow’s point of view show that he did not know or could not have known of Beesley’s death or of Hurley’s “role in eliminating the threat” posed by Troyke.
“Rather, based upon information known to Brownlow, the presence of a mass shooter, and the potential for a second mass shooter in a red shirt carrying a rifle and a handgun turned toward a hub of community activity, warranted deadly force and no lesser degree of force would eliminate the potential threat,” her letter determined.
Hero’s family responds to report
The City of Arvada released a public statement on Monday in response to the conclusion of the DA’s investigation, saying the city and community teams have “worked to support the subsequent investigations, and continue to support those affected by the events, including the families of Officer Gordon Beesley, Johnny Hurley, the involved officer, and all of the community.”
“In addition, the City team’s focus remains on supporting the family of Officer Gordon Beesley, a 19-year veteran of the APD who was loved and respected by all, especially his wife and two children. The team also continues to grieve with the family of Good Samaritan Johnny Hurley, who took decisive action to protect others without thought for his own safety,” the statement continues.
The Arvada Police Department called Hurley’s actions “heroic,” adding, “it is clear that he intervened in an active shooting that unfolded quickly in a busy commercial area in the middle of the day, and that he did so without hesitation. Mr. Hurley’s actions certainly saved others from serious injury or death.”
APD investigators recovered a document written by Troyke with statements revealing his intent to kill police officers, including: “Today I will kill as many Arvada officers as I possibly can.”
Kathleen Boleyn, Hurley’s mother, released a public statement after the conclusion of the DA’s investigation, saying in part: “This support and love has allowed our family to persevere as we struggle to come to terms with Johnny’s final act of heroism,” adding, “I imagine that many people are angry and that is understandable. I would ask that instead of acting out on your anger, that you use that energy to be the change you wish to see in the world.”