A Vietnam War veteran and Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient was laid to rest this weekend after being shot by police defending his grandson from a home intruder.
Richard “Gary” Black, 73, was in his Aurora, Colorado, home around 1:30 a.m. last month when a naked man broke down their front door and began assaulting his grandson. Black shot the intruder, but police shot Black when they arrived at the scene and saw him carrying a handgun and a flashlight.
The incident has been described as one of the most tragic police shootings in the city’s history, according to the Denver Post, and those who were there hailed him as a hero both in the service and at home.
“He was a hero coming out of that war, and he died a hero defending his family,” said Mark Potter, chaplain for American Legion Post 22 in Northglenn, Colorado.
Aurora Police Department Chief Nick Metz, whose officer shot and killed Black, was also in attendance, accompanied by several uniformed officers. Metz hailed Black as a hero for defending his family.
“There’s no doubt in my mind in any shape or form that Mr. Black saved his family’s life that night,” Metz said.
SEE ALSO: Police at Texas Tech Praise Campus Carry: ‘No Longer a Target of Opportunity’ for Mass Killers
The incident began when 26-year-old Dajon Harper left a nearby party and, for reasons that remain unclear, broke down Black’s door and grabbed Black’s grandson, who had been sleeping on the couch, according to the Denver Post. Harper took Black’s grandson to the bathroom and tried to drown him, while Black and the boy’s father attempted to wrestle the boy away.
“I won’t go into the graphic details other than to say the child was violently assaulted,” Metz said.
Black was hit in the head with a vase during the course of the fight, and neither man was able to pull Harper off the boy. Black retrieved a 9mm handgun and shot Harper, but by that time other people from the party had arrived at the house.
Metz told reporters earlier this month that his officers arrived to a “violent” and “chaotic” scene, and it isn’t clear from 911 and dispatch calls whether they had been given a clear description of the intruder or the other individuals at the house.
“The 911 telephone call by Mrs. Black was difficult to understand as large portions are unintelligible,” the Black family said in a statement. “The family acknowledges the APD’s position that the responding officers did not receive a description of the intruders.”
Officers observed Black walk around a corner, turn back, and come towards them. Metz says his officers told Black multiple times to drop his weapon, but he also admitted that Black had suffered hearing impairment during his time in the Army.
“For the next 13 seconds, officers continued to give at least five commands to Mr. Black to drop the gun and to show his hands,” Metz said. “We don’t know why, but for whatever reason Mr. Black did not drop the gun.”
Metz admitted that the officers did not identify themselves before firing, but has continued to defend his officers’ actions, even allowing the officers who shot Black to return to work this week.
“There was a reference that our officers acted recklessly,” Metz said. “I dispute that strongly. They were not reckless. They responded how I would expect them to respond given the limited amount of information they were given.”
Gary Black’s wife, Jeanette Black, invited the Aurora police to her husband’s funeral because she wanted her children and grandchildren to respect law enforcement despite what happened.
“They’re still here to protect all of us,” she said. “They’re still representatives of our city.”