Unarmed black man killed by Colorado police was wanted fugitive

An unarmed black man fatally shot by police near Denver last week was a fugitive parolee who had removed his electronic tracking device and was wanted on suspicion of other crimes, including kidnapping and assault, authorities said on Monday.

Naeschylus Vinzant, 37, was shot dead last Friday as officers tried to arrest him on separate warrants, Commander Paul O'Keefe of the Aurora Police Department told reporters.

The shooting follows a string of incidents, including the slayings of unarmed black men at the hands of police in Missouri and New York City, that have put law enforcement across the country under heightened scrutiny over the use of lethal force, especially against minorities, the poor and the mentally ill.

"We're in a climate right now where police actions are going to be questioned to a much greater degree," Aurora Police Chief Nicholas Metz said.

Friday's shooting in Aurora unfolded after police there were contacted by Colorado Corrections Department officials seeking help in monitoring the whereabouts of Vinzant, a parolee who had removed the GPS tracking device he was required to wear as a condition of his release from prison, O'Keefe said.

O'Keefe said Vinzant also was wanted in connection with a separate incident involving assault, robbery, kidnapping and domestic violence that occurred in Aurora on March 2.

According to local media reports, Vinzant had an extensive violent criminal record that included previous arrests for attempted homicide and assault.

Based on his record, Aurora police called out its SWAT team to apprehend Vinzant, who was on foot when confronted by officers and was shot during the ensuing altercation, police said. The Arapahoe County Coroner's Office said he died of a single gunshot wound to the chest.

Metz declined to release specific details about what led to the shooting, saying the incident was under investigation. The officer who fired the shot was not publicly identified and was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the probe.

Metz, who is Aurora's first African-American police chief, said he and his command staff would meet with community groups in the coming days to hear their concerns, and vowed that police would protect the rights of anyone who may seek to protest the shooting. 

Print Email