Decorated Vietnam vet was protecting grandson before being shot by Colo. police
By NOELLE PHILLIPS | The Denver Post | Published: August 1, 2018
AURORA, Colo. (Tribune News Service) — The man shot and killed by Aurora police was defending his family from a naked stranger who had burst through the front door of their Colorado home in the wee hours of Monday morning, grabbing an 11-year-old boy who was sleeping on a couch and attacking him.
The 73-year-old man, who has been identified as Richard “Gary” Black and was the boy’s grandfather, shot the intruder with a 9-mm pistol while the stranger was choking and trying to drown the boy in a bathtub, said Siddhartha Rathod, an attorney representing Black’s family. The intruder died.
Soon afterward, an Aurora Police Department officer shot and killed Black after police arrived at the home at 10609 E. Montview Blvd.
“This is a horror movie scenario,” Rathod said. “There’s no question Mr. Black is a hero, that Mr. Black saved his grandson’s life. This truly is a tragedy.”
Police have admitted they killed a homeowner at 1:30 a.m. Monday at the home, but they have not explained what transpired other than that police arrived to a “chaotic and violent scene,” heard gunshots and encountered an armed man, whom they shot.
The intruder has not been identified.
The deaths are under investigation by the 17th Judicial District Attorney, which covers Adams County. The DA’s office issued a statement Monday night saying it had asked the Aurora Police Department to withhold releasing new information about the shooting until the investigation is complete.
Black was a South Carolina native who graduated from The Citadel, a military college in Charleston, S.C., in 1966 and was in Hotel Company, said Kim Keelor, a spokeswoman for the school.
He became a lieutenant in the Army and served in the Vietnam War. He was awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his actions, according to a newspaper clipping provided to The Denver Post. Military service ran in the family: Black’s father was a World War II veteran who fought at the Battle of the Bulge, said his half-sister, Elisa Black-Taylor, who lives in South Carolina.
“He was a wonderful family man who loved spending time with his grandchildren and caring for his garden,” Black-Taylor said. “I’ve chatted with his daughter, and she says he saved his family when an intruder broke into his home. He will be remembered as a hero, both for his service to his country as well as to the family who loved him.”
After the war, Black became a federal agent for the Internal Revenue Service, Rathod said. He also was a licensed certified public accountant in Colorado, according to public records.
Black and his wife, Jeanette, had been married for 39 years, and they had raised three children in the Montview Boulevard home. Grandchildren were frequent visitors.
Rathod, who met Tuesday with Jeanette Black and other family members, said the intruder had been attending a party at a home on the corner of North Iola Street and East Montview Boulevard before he ran across the five-lane road and onto the Black’s property. Others from the party followed him onto the property and at some point entered the house, Rathod said.
Black, his wife, a stepson and the grandson were all asleep when the intruder kicked in the door, Rathod said.
Aurora’s public safety dispatch center first received multiple calls about a disturbance in the area and then received a call from a woman at the East Montview Boulevard home who said a man was breaking into their house, according to an Aurora police news release.
The intruder grabbed the boy, choked him and took him to the bathroom where he was attempting to drown him in a bathtub, Rathod said.
Gary Black and his stepson fought with the intruder, but he would not stop attacking the boy. They even hit the intruder on the head with a vase but that did not stop him, Rathod said.
So Black, who had a concealed carry weapon permit, rushed to get his 9 mm and then killed the intruder.
The stepson was in the bathroom with the child and Black’s wife was outside talking to 911 operators when they heard additional shots, Rathod said. Black was standing in his living room when he was hit by gunfire, Rathod said.
Black died at a hospital. The intruder was found dead on the bathroom floor. The child was taken to a hospital for serious, non-life-threatening issues and remained hospitalized Tuesday afternoon, Rathod said.
Jeanette Black also was hospitalized after she reinjured a wound from a previous illness.
The family has a lot of questions as to why Black was killed by police officers, Rathod said.
“Aurora is going to need to come out and say what happened,” Rathod said.
The officer who fired the shot has been placed on administrative reassignment with pay. The Denver Police Department is assisting in the investigation.
It was the second fatal shooting by an Aurora police officer with 24 hours.
Early Sunday morning, an Aurora officer fatally shot a man driving a stolen pickup truck in Adams County. Officers had followed the truck driver across the county line and down a dead end road when the driver turned around and began ramming police cars, according to an Adams County Sheriff’s Office spokesman.
That shooting also remains under investigation by the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
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