‘We’re dreading it:’ Family braces for trial after son was shot by cops in inexplicable circumstances

Sally and Simon Glass are steeling themselves at home in Boulder with a mental inventory of their pink wardrobe items – the outfits like an amulet to wear during the murder trial of a Colorado deputy charged in the killing of their son.

“We might run out of them,” says Simon; Sally suggests the couple “might have to get some pink scarves and things” to ensure they have enough in their son’s favourite colour to last for the duration of proceedings, with opening statements expected to start on Friday.

Even now, though, as she speaks to The Independent, she is surrounded by pink – her shirt, the straw in her cup of water, the cover of her phone.

The colour has loomed large in their lives as a tribute to their 22-year-old son Christian since authorities arrived at the Glass home in June 2022 to announce he’d been shot dead by police.

Christian Glass smiles with his parents, Sally and Simon Glass, from England and New Zealand, respectively (The Glass Family)

On that day, Sally collapsed in the doorway, which is where Simon found her upon returning home shortly afterwards. It was nigh impossible for them to comprehend that Christian, a sensitive and kind amateur geologist, was dead; even more difficult to comprehend was that he’d been killed by police. The initial police narrative claimed Christian had done something to incite the violent response, which didn’t make sense to his parents.

So Sally and Simon, a soft-spoken, gentle couple from England and New Zealand, respectively, stood up and fought. Mustering courage amidst their shock and grief, they demanded answers.

The revelations that followed from the 911 call audio and body camera footage – from seven officers responding from five different agencies – were tragically maddening. Christian, who’d been out for a drive, called 911 for help on 10 June after his car became stuck off a mountain road.

After more than an hour of interactions with officers, during which he never left his car, he was tased, then shot dead, all without ever leaving the vehicle – or even the driver’s seat.

His parents have never watched the footage; they still don’t want to know the graphic specifics of Christian’s killing. But they were armed with enough detail to be determined to save other families from the same horrifying pain, and have sparked a cascade of historic change.

“We had to fight for justice, along with our lawyers; this was not a smooth path,” says Sally. “Justice just didn’t come. We really had to fight for it, and it is really hard.”

Just under a year ago, Sally and Simon were awarded a landmark $19m settlement, the largest in Colorado history. Part of the terms ensure enhanced training for law enforcement; Christian’s case will now be used as an example of what not to do. The sheriff in Clear Creek County has resigned and the undersheriff was fired. All seven officers who responded on the night of Christian’s death have been charged.

Christian loved art, sports, geology and had a passion for social justice, his family say; he had trained as a chef and was looking at coding programmes when he was shot dead by Colorado cops in 2022 (The Glass Family)

Now, 22 months after their son’s killing – the same number of years he spent on this Earth – Sally and Simon will finally watch the man who shot him stand trial. Jury selection began on Monday for the case of former Clear Creek County Deputy Andrew Buen, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder, reckless endangerment and official misconduct.

“Obviously, we’ve [yet] to see a guilty verdict, so that’s yet to be decided – and what sort of sentence they come up with, assuming he is found guilty,” Simon tells The Independent. He and Sally will be driving daily from Boulder to the courthouse in Georgetown, more than an hour away, for the trial; they will leave at various junctures to avoid too-painful testimony.

“Honestly, we’re dreading it,” Simon says. “It is not going to be easy. It’s going to be a tough few weeks.”

Christian, his wife acknowledges tearfully, “is dead”.

“There’s nothing we can do to bring him back. But maybe his death was not in vain,” she says. “Maybe, through highlighting the atrocity of this, the changes that have taken place, it doesn’t happen to somebody else. That’s sort of the thought I”m going to have during the trial … that we’re fighting for change, that some other poor young person doesn’t get gunned down for no reason.”

The circumstances surrounding her son’s death were heartbreaking and almost painfully inexplicable. He called 911 before midnight after his car became stuck on rocks in the deep darkness near Silver Plume, a near-ghost town in the mountains. Christian was unfailingly polite but clearly distressed; it was evident he was suffering from some type of mental health crisis as he mentioned folkloric figures and made other confused utterings.

When the operator asked Christian if there were any weapons in the car, however, he told her about rock tools he had with him, offering to throw them out of the car when officers arrived to make them feel safer. He described the items as “two knives, a hammer and a rubber mallet … I guess that’s a weapon?”

The operator told him to stay put, and officers, upon arrival, also told him not to throw the items from the car. First on scene were Clear Creek County Deputies Buen and Tim Collins; their superior, Sgt Kyle Gould, was supervising remotely. They were soon joined by Colorado Division of Gaming Enforcement Investigators Mary Harris and Christa Lloyd, Idaho Springs Police Officer Brittany Morrow and Colorado State Trooper Ryan Bennie.

Simon and Sally Glass have been routinely present in court in Georgetown, Colorado as seven officers have been charged; former Clear Creek deputy Andrew Buen’s trial on charges including second-degree murder begins this week (Sheila Flynn)

For more than an hour, the officers alternately barked, cajoled and joked as they attempted to get Christian out of the car. He was terrified and refused; at one point the 22-year-old made heart shapes with his hands to signify peace, love and his acquiescence.

More than an hour after Clear Creek deputies first arrived, however, the situation escalated rapidly and without clear reason. Gould gave the order to breach the car – though at least one other agency can be heard in footage querying the necessity of that action. Despite that, the officers swarmed Christian’s maroon Honda with guns drawn, shouting; Collins jumped on the hood of the car and trained his weapon on Christian through the windshield.

Before the use of lethal force, Christian was tased – and as he thrashed around, he grabbed the small knife hat he’d previously offered to throw from the car. Buen, the same deputy who’d shouted at Christian not to throw the items, fired five shots into the vehicle – killing him.

“Oh my god,” one officer can be heard saying in the body camera footage. “What did we do?”

Christian’s parents remain incredulous at the circumstances surrounding their son’s death.

“You don’t behave like that,” Sally tells The Independent. “You don’t gun down kids that are scared. He didn’t have weapons; I mean, he had geology tools. He wasn’t a violent kid. So many innocent people in the US are gunned down every year; unfortunately, that’s a culture in the police force in this country – and not all of them are bad. Honestly, there are good cops out there. But there’s a chunk that aren’t.”

Gould and Buen were both fired from Clear Creek County and indicted in Christian’s killing before the end of 2022. Buen was charged with second-degree murder, reckless endangerment and official misconduct; his supervisor was charged with criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment.

Gould pleaded guilty in November 2023 to lesser charges and, as part of the terms, is forever prohibited from working as a peace officer again. The Peace Officer Standards and Training Board revoked his licence last month.

Buen pleaded not guilty to the charges but, as his trial approached, prosecutors charged the five other officers present on the night under new legislation passed by Colorado lawmakers in 2020, in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Elijah McClain – who was killed less than two hours away in Aurora – and similar incidents of violent police brutality across the country.

Christian poses as a child in his England top; his mother is from Canterbury and, after his funeral at Brabourne Church of England, he was buried with his grandmother (The Glass Family)

Fifth Judicial District Attorney Heidi McCollum at the end of last year announced duty to intervene charges against Georgetown Police Officer Timothy Collins (who resigned as a Clear Creek deputy following the Glass shooting only to be hired and promoted by the town’s police department); Idaho Springs Officer Brittany Morrow; Colorado State Trooper Ryan Bennie; and Division of Gaming Officers Mary Harris and Christa Lloyd; and Georgetown Marshal Randy Williams, who is also charged with third-degree assault.

The duty to intervene charges are misdemeanours penalising officers for failing to step in and de-escalate the situation. Convictions mandate that, like Gould, officers be stripped of their POST certification.

Siddhartha Rathod, a lawyer for the Glass family, told The Independent in the months following the shooting that the firm had shown the body camera footage to “a lot of police officers.”

“Most police officers are like, ‘I would just put my card through the window saying, “Okay, you don’t want our help? Your phone works. You know, call a tow truck or call us. You’ve got our number, call us back” – and just left,” he said. “That’s what the vast majority of officers would have done. In fact, almost every officer would have done that.”

Collins and Williams resigned from Georgetown Police Department in February, essentially gutting law enforcement in a town that has become Ground Zero for the case. Clear Creek County Sheriff Rick Albers had resigned in July 2023 after the county Board of Commissioners issued a statement saying he “had not adequately accepted responsibility for his central role in this tragedy.”

Within hours of being sworn in as interim sheriff in December, Matthew Harris fired undersheriff John Stein. A 27-year law enforcement veteran, Harris had spent nearly six years as a US Marshal in Utah before coming to Colorado and has promised departmental change.

“We need to learn from mistakes, but not dwell on them and make sure that our team and our patrol are focused on patrol in our training, stronger and in alignment with POST standards and best practices organizationally, and best practices around the country for traditional law enforcement,” Harris said in December.

“From what we understand, he has a different approach,” Simon tells The Independent. “He wouldn’t hire murderers.”

Simon and Sally Glass were awarded a $19m settlement, the largest in Colorado history, along with guarantees changes would be implemented in police training to avoid tragedies such as the death of their son (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

“He’s dismantling that sort of corrupt old boys’ club,” his wife adds. “I’m actually pleased for the Clear Creek County residents, as well, because it was their police force, it’s their community, their kids are growing up in that community.”

More than 1,500 jury summonses were sent out for the Buen trial, the most in Clear Creek County history – meaning one in six eligible residents received one, according to the Denver Gazette.

As the trial looms, the Glasses are doing “a lot of work to stay sane,” Sally says.

“We take one day at a time; we get up and we just put one foot in front of the other.”

She’s suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and “personally [has] a little bit of disassociation, where I look at this and I go, ‘Really? Is that my son, really? Did that really happen to me?’ So I’m still struggling with the reality of it all.”

Simon, who thinks of his son every time he sees a maroon Honda, says: “The disassociation that Sally talks about is very real.

“When I talk about things with people, it is almost like I’m narrating a play or something – it’s hard to believe that the police would do something like this.”

They are unwavering in their battle to see those responsible held accountable; they’d like to see stronger charges, as well, against other officers at the scene. The Glasses have spoken out about other police-involved shootings in the interim, noting how, following the death of Tyre Nichols last year, they watched his parents’ dealing with “the same thing we’re going through – just disbelief,” Simon said at the time.

“What are they doing?” his wife asked despondently of departments across the US in the wake of such killings.

She and Simon are not yet ready to go through the piles of mail from supporters and other victims’ families which are currently with their lawyer, though they’ve felt tremendous outpourings of sympathy from many corners.

For now, they are focused on watching firsthand as Buen stands trial in Georgetown, just minutes from where their son was shot dead.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Simon says. “I’m very pleased that it’s going ahead. I hope that he is found guilty and justice prevails.”

Sally plans to wear not only pink but also a necklace featuring two clasped hands in honour of some of Christian’s final gestures.

“We have to stay strong for our son, and we want to support [Christian] through the trial,” she says. “And I think, when it’s all over and hopefully he’s in prison, we can really properly grieve for our son – which we really feel like we haven’t had a chance to do yet.”

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