Former sheriff's deputy convicted of misdemeanor in shooting death of Christian Glass

DENVER (AP) — A former Colorado sheriff’s deputy was convicted of a misdemeanor on Friday in the shooting death of a 22-year-old man in distress who had called 911 for help after his car got stuck in a small mountain community.

Andrew Buen was also charged with second-degree murder and official misconduct in the 2022 death of Christian Glass, which drew national attention and prompted calls for police reform focused on crisis intervention. But jurors could not reach a verdict on those charges and only found him guilty of reckless endangerment, which is typically punished by a maximum four months in jail, The Denver Post reported.

A second-degree murder conviction would have carried a sentence of years in prison.

Prosecutors alleged that Buen needlessly escalated a standoff with Glass, who exhibited signs of a mental health crisis. But the defense said Buen shot Glass to protect a fellow officer, which made the shooting legally justified.

A second officer indicted in Glass’ death previously pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. Six other officers have been charged with failing to intervene.

District Attorney Heidi McCollum still has the option of pursuing the charges against Buen for murder and official misconduct. She said Friday she expects to make a decision in the next couple of weeks.

An attorney for the Glass family said the family would like the prosecution continue.

"The jury found Deputy Buen’s conduct to be criminal,” Siddharta Rathod said. “The jury found Deputy Buen guilty of reckless endangerment. And it is one step closer to getting justice for Christian. Deputy Buen will reface a jury of his peers.”

Glass called for help after his SUV became stuck on a dirt road in Silver Plume. He told a dispatcher he was being followed and made other statements suggesting he was paranoid, hallucinating or delusional, and experiencing a mental health crisis, according to Buen's indictment.

When Buen and other officers arrived, Glass refused to get out of his vehicle. Officers’ body camera footage showed Glass making heart shapes with his hands to the officers and praying: “Dear Lord, please, don’t let them break the window.”

In closing arguments on Wednesday, prosecutors said Buen decided from the start that Glass needed to get out of the vehicle and shouted commands at him 46 times over about 10 minutes. The prosecution contends Buen did not have any legal justification to force Glass out, not even if it was a suspected case of driving under the influence.

They fired bean bag rounds and shocked him with a Taser, but those attempts failed to make Glass exit. He then took a knife he had offered to surrender at the beginning of the encounter and flung it out a rear window, which was broken by a bean bag, toward another officer, Randy Williams, according to the indictment. At that point, Buen fired five times at Glass.

Glass just reacted after being treated “like an animal in a cage being poked and prodded,” and the knife never touched Williams, District Attorney Heidi McCollum told jurors in closing arguments in Idaho Springs.

Defense lawyer Carrie Slinkard faulted prosecutors for not looking into whether Glass had behavioral or psychological issues that could explain his behavior, whether drugs had played a role, or whether both factors could have contributed.

Glass’ mother, Sally Glass, has previously said her son has depression and had recently been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. She said he was “having a mental health episode” during his interaction with the police.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Stephen Potts, who described Glass as a “terrified boy,” said it did not matter what prompted the crisis.

“He was in a crisis of some kind," he said. "Is this how we expect people in crisis to be treated?”