A grand jury in the US will consider evidence in the shooting of New Zealander Christian Glass, the first step in a process his family hope will lead to charges against the police officers involved.
Glass, 22 – who was born and partly raised in Christchurch before moving to the United States with his parents when he was a child – was shot dead inside his vehicle after calling police for roadside help when his car got stuck on some rocks in Clear Creek County, Colorado, in June.
Shocking body camera footage released by lawyers for his family last month showed police demanding Glass get out of the car and, when he didn’t, an officer smashed the passenger side window.
Seeing Glass was holding a small knife, he was shot with beanbag rounds, Tasered and finally shot five or six times as he apparently reached behind him towards another officer.
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His family have called it murder.
In an exclusive statement to Stuff, former Christchurch man Simon Glass said the family was informed on Thursday grand jury proceedings into the shooting of his “precious son” would start in Clear Creek County in November.
In the US, grand juries are a group of citizens empowered to conduct legal proceedings, investigate potential criminal conduct and determine whether criminal charges should be brought.
Glass said he spoke to Christian’s grandparents, Jim and Sheryn, in Christchurch on Thursday to let them know the news.
“It has been a long wait and we expect this will take a while,” Glass said.
“But we trust that this is the first step along the path to justice and accountability for Christian. We have every confidence in the judicial process in Colorado and in the District Attorney, Heidi McCollum.
“We have faith that the Clear Creek County grand jury will issue substantial criminal charges against all the officers involved.
“Above all else we are looking for those involved in Christian’s killing to be held accountable for their actions and inactions. We are very grateful for the support of our friends and family in New Zealand.”
The family also supplied a new photo of Christian, competing in the Sanitarium Weet-Bix Kids TRYathlon in March, 2009.
He was shot by Clear Creek County deputy Andrew Buen, who is still working. No charges have yet to be laid in the case.
According to Colorado Public Radio, the case is under review by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation – a standard procedure in all shootings that involve law enforcement.
However, the use of a grand jury goes a step further, CPR reports. The grand jury holds subpoena power and can gather witness testimony under oath. It can also result in indictments.
“When a peace officer shoots and wounds or kills another in Colorado, there are specific protocols to investigate and review such matters,” McCollum said in a statement. “It is imperative that we reach the right decision and not rush into judgment – in fairness to the family of the victim, and those involved with and impacted by Christian’s death.”
The Glass family believes Christian was experiencing a mental health crisis when the incident happened. Glass told both the 911 dispatcher and the attending officers that he was afraid for his safety.