DENVER – The mother of a man hailed as a hero for killing a gunman who ambushed and fatally shot a police officer only to be killed himself by another officer in suburban Denver filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging the officer who shot him should have realized he did not pose a threat.
The lawsuit comes a day after the first anniversary of shootings that happened in the middle of the day in the main square in Olde Town Arvada, a historic shopping and entertainment area about 7 miles northwest of downtown Denver. The shootings came three months after a gunman killed 10 people at a supermarket in nearby Boulder.
Johnny Hurley’s mother, Kathleen Boleyn, said the 40-year-old chef with a passion for helping people ran toward danger, assessing the situation as he went.
Her lawsuit claims that Hurley was crouched down with a rifle pointing down and not in a threatening position when he was shot, adding that a witness said Hurley was taking the magazine out of a rifle he took away from the shooter.
“Johnny did what the police were supposed to do. He should not have had to die for it,” Boleyn said.
A district attorney investigation that cleared the officer who shot him, Kraig Brownlow, however found that it appeared to the officer like Hurley was reloading the rifle or trying to fix something on it. District Attorney Alexis King, who along with police has praised Hurley’s actions, said that Brownlow thought Hurley was a second mass shooter and that he only had a moment to stop him from hurting others.
Arvada Police Chief Link Strate was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. In a statement in response to the lawsuit, the city of Arvada stressed that the district attorney found that Brownlow’s actions were justified and implied the lawsuit was misleading.
“The events of June 21, 2021 were caused by Ronald Troyke, an individual that harbored an unfounded hatred toward police officers. When civil litigation is announced by a plaintiff’s attorney in a manner that mischaracterizes and omits select information, it has the potential to compromise officer safety,” it said.
Brownlow left the department in good standing after the district attorney’s investigation and was someone the department would gladly have back, police spokesperson Detective David Snelling said.
Brownlow could not immediately be located to request comment on the lawsuit.
Investigators say that Troyke was intent on killing as many police officers as he could. He shot and killed officer Gordon Beesley before being shot and killed by Hurley, who heard the shots, rushed out of a nearby store and fired his handgun at Troyke.
Brownlow was one of three officers who had heard shots and spotted Troyke from inside a nearby police substation. None of the officers inside the substation knew that Beesley, a 19-year department veteran and beloved school resource officer, had been shot or that Hurley had intervened, according to the district attorney’s investigation.
The lawsuit says that Brownlow and the other two officers “cowered” in the substation, “choosing self-preservation over defense of the civilian population” before Brownlow saw Hurley with Troyke’s gun, opened the building’s door and shot Hurley from behind after deciding against giving a warning first.
“He made this choice despite the fact that no reasonable officer could have perceived a threat from Mr. Hurley’s actions,” the lawsuit alleges. “Mr. Hurley’s death was not the result of a misfortunate split-second judgment call gone wrong, but the result of a deliberate and unlawful use of deadly force.”
The lawsuit alleges that the Arvada Police Department trains its officer never to give warnings before shooting in active shooter situations, which it claims is unconstitutional.
Snelling countered that Arvada officers have discretion in whether to give warnings before shooting someone depending on whether giving one would give a suspect an advantage to shoot others or officers.