Johnny Hurley (Photo courtesy of Cody Soules via Denver7)
An Arvada police officer will not face criminal charges for mistakenly shooting and killing a “good Samaritan” who stopped an active shooter in Olde Town Arvada this summer, prosecutors announced Monday.
First Judicial District Attorney Alexis King at a news conference announced her decision to not charge the officer nearly five months after he shot and killed 40-year-old Johnny Hurley.
Arvada Officer Kraig Brownlow on June 21 shot and killed Hurley, who was holding the rifle of the active shooter he had just shot. The shooter, Ronald Troyke, one minute earlier had ambushed and killed Arvada police Officer Gordon Beesley and fired several rounds in the Denver suburb’s busy dining and shopping district.
“The officer here had objectively reasonable grounds to believe, and did believe, he and others were in imminent danger of being killed that day,” King said. “Thus, the officer’s decision to shoot John Hurley was legally justified despite his heroic actions that day.”
King added that Hurley stopped further bloodshed and will be remembered for his selflessness.
Hurley’s mother, Kathleen Boleyn, said that she “imagine(s) 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.”
In a statement through her attorneys at the Rathod Mohamedbhai firm, Boleyn asked for people to engage in “meaningful conservations that might make a difference” and to “consider using Johnny’s commitment to doing the right thing even at the greatest cost to inspire your own actions.”
A letter issued Monday by King explaining her decision not to charge Brownlow offered the first complete timeline of the June 21 shootings. Police and prosecutors released few details about Hurley’s death prior to the prosecutor’s announcement Monday, citing the ongoing investigation.
The entire incident — from the gunman killing Beesley to Brownlow killing Hurley — lasted two minutes and seven seconds.
A diagram created by the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office shows the area in Olde Town Arvada where Ronald Troyke, Officer Gordon Beesley and Johnny Hurley were killed.
Surveillance video released by the Arvada Police Department showed Troyke run after Beesley and shoot him with a shotgun at 1:35 p.m. in the downtown area. Video then showed Troyke return to his truck and swap the shotgun for a rifle before walking toward the main square. Investigators later discovered a note in Troyke’s Arvada apartment indicating that he wanted to kill police officers, investigators have said.
Three officers, including Brownlow, heard the noise of the gunfire from their Community Outreach Resource and Enforcement unit office on the town square but were not sure what the noise was. Hearing no information about the noise on their radios, the officers went to the nearest door and through the window saw a man dressed in black carrying an AR-15 walking around the parking lot, King’s letter states. The officers realized the noise was gunfire and called in an active shooter on the radio.
The officers did not engage the shooter, later identified as Troyke, because they feared he would start shooting at them, according to King’s letter. They did not think the door they were standing behind would stop a bullet from the man’s rifle and at least one officer was not wearing body armor that would stop a rifle round.
As the other officers searched for a better vantage point, Brownlow stayed at the door with the window and watched Troyke. He saw Troyke walk toward the square with the rifle but lost sight of him. Brownlow heard a volley of gunfire, but could not see Troyke or anyone else firing a weapon.
The gunfire that Brownlow heard was Hurley shooting and killing Troyke. Hurley rushed out of the Arvada Army Navy Surplus store where he had been shopping and used his legally concealed handgun to kill Troyke at 1:36 p.m.
Hurley, wearing a red shirt, then stepped into Brownlow’s view holding Troyke’s rifle and his handgun, according to King’s letter. Brownlow saw Hurley manipulating the rifle and at 1:37 p.m. fired three rounds, striking Hurley.
A paramedic with the Jefferson County SWAT team started rendering aid to Hurley at 1:44 p.m.
Doctors at Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge declared Hurley dead shortly after he arrived at the hospital, according to his autopsy report. Hurley died of a single gunshot to the pelvis, according to his autopsy. The bullet entered his buttock from behind and did not exit his body.
“Though the acts of John Hurley were nothing short of heroic, the facts must be viewed as they appeared to Officer Brownlow at the time and future developments are irrelevant to the legal analysis,” King wrote in her letter. “Officer Brownlow did not know, and could not have known from his vantage point, of the murder of Officer Beesley or of Hurley’s role in eliminating the threat posed by the man in black. 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.”
Brownlow did not issue a warning or commands before opening fire, King said Monday. Brownlow attended a training on how to respond to an active shooter on March 31, she wrote in her letter.
Arvada police officers are trained to evaluate active shooter situations when deciding whether to give commands to a suspect before using force, Arvada police spokesman Dave Snelling said. The correct decision varies depending on the scenario, he said.
Brownlow remained on paid administrative leave Monday and Snelling said it’s up to the officer to decide whether to come back to his previous role. The department will conduct an internal review of officers’ decisions that day now that the district attorney’s review is complete, Snelling said.
Arvada Mayor Marc Williams on Monday said he hoped King’s decision to clear Brownlow of criminal wrongdoing would bring some closure to those affected by the shootings on June 21.
“I do view Johnny Hurley as a hero that day,” he said. “We’re still saddened by the loss of Gordon Beesley and we’re also thinking of the officer. He’s gotta live with this and that’s tough.”
King is the second district attorney in recent years to find a police officer legally justified in shooting someone acting in self-defense. Adams County prosecutors in 2018 declined to charge an Aurora police officer who shot and killed a 73-year-old homeowner defending his home against a violent intruder.
Denver Post reporter Sam Tabachnik contributed to this report.