AP NEWS

2 Denver police officers suspended in fatal 2018 shooting

March 5, 2020 GMT

DENVER (AP) — Two Denver police officers were placed on unpaid, 90-day suspension in connection with a fatal 2018 shooting that killed one man and injured another after officers misidentified one as a suspect in an attempted homicide, authorities said.

Police say officers Susan Mercado and Austin Barela shot at a man they reasonably believed to be an escaped inmate who had been held in the attempted murder case and was considered dangerous, the Denver Post reported Wednesday.

The officers use of deadly force was not reasonable or necessary, but they were not fired because their belief that they were pursuing an escaped inmate suspected of firing at police was reasonable, department officials said.

The officers believed they were opening fire on Mauricio Venzor-Gonzalez after a high-speed car chase two years ago but instead fatally shot 27-year-old Steven Lee Nguyen and injured 24-year-old Rafael Landeros Jr., authorities said.

Venzor-Gonzalez was arrested five months after his escape and was later convicted and sentenced to 36 years in prison for escape and attempted murder.

Another officer who fired after the pursuit has not been disciplined in connection to the case.

Denver District Attorney Beth McCann cleared the three officers of criminal wrongdoing in 2018 but urged the department to review whether they violated department policy.

A telephone message left by The Associated Press seeking comment from the union that represents officers was not immediately returned.

No telephone listings were available for Mercado and Barela.