DENVER (CN) — Johnny Hurley, 41, was shopping for camping supplies at the Arvada Army Navy Surplus, 20 minutes north of Denver, when a man killed a police officer with a shotgun and armed himself with an assault rifle. Instead of ducking and covering, Hurley pulled out his concealed pistol, ran toward the perpetrator and fatally shot him. As he was disarming the assault rifle, however, an Arvada police officer mistook Hurley as an assailant and shot and killed him.
Hurley’s mother Kathleen Boleyn sued Arvada police officer Kraig Brownlow and Chief of Police Link Strate in the District Court of Jefferson County on Wednesday, over the death of her son.
“Mr. Hurley’s heroism saved countless lives that day, but it cost him his own,” Boleyn said in her 17-page lawsuit. "Unlike Mr. Hurley, the three Arvada Police Department officers did not spring into action. Rather, they cowered inside, choosing self-preservation over defense of the civilian population."
Police identified the active shooter, Ronald Troyke, as a heavy-set man wearing a black T-shirt, a bucket hat, black boots and white tube socks. Hurley, on the other hand, was slim and wore a baseball cap, red T-shirt and blue jeans.
Hurley grew up in Colorado Springs and worked as a chef, enjoying skateboarding and being in the mountains. He also worked as a DJ under the name Johnny Verbal.
Eyewitnesses who saw Hurley confront Troyke assumed he was special forces by the calculated way he approached and took out the assailant.
Despite stark differences between the two men, Boleyn claims Brownlow shot Hurley without any warning after her son had holstered his pistol and was removing the magazine from Troyke’s assault rifle.
“[Brownlow] made this choice despite the fact that no reasonable officer could have perceived a threat from Mr. Hurley’s actions. 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 argued.
Troyke developed a hatred for police after immersing himself in anti-police videos online. He had confronted Brownlow near the Arvada library two weeks earlier, calling law enforcement “terrible people” and blasting them for not wearing body cameras.
Troyke’s sister reported him to the police morning of June 21, 2021, after he told her he “couldn’t do this no more” and the “police don’t take me seriously.”
When law enforcement went to check on Troyke in the afternoon, he was already driving to Arvada’s Olde Town Square “armed to the teeth and planning to lure police officers into a lethal trap.”
According to the complaint, Troyke harassed young women with a condom and circled the fountain making noises until a passerby called the police on him.
Troyke shot and killed responding Officer Gordon Beesley with a 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun, then retrieved an AR-15 assault rifle from his truck and prepared to kill more police.
Boleyn's claims include violations of Hurley’s rights under the Colorado Constitution by using excessive force and battery causing wrongful death. She seeks compensatory and punitive damages and is represented by Denver attorney Matthew Cron, who practices with Rathod Mohamedbhai.
In a statement accompanying the lawsuit, Hurley’s family also noted that “June 21, 2021, was a tragic day for the Arvada Police Department and for the family of Officer Beesley. Violence against law enforcement is never acceptable.”
Brownlow resigned from the police department following an investigation by the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
“Based on the district attorney’s findings and after an internal review, the Arvada Police Department found that Officer Brownlow’s actions were consistent with Arvada Police Department policy and procedures. The Arvada Police Department is not considering changes to its actual training or response protocols at this time,” said Rachael Kuroiwa, Arvada communication manager, in a statement.
Colorado passed a law in 2020 blocking police officers from using qualified immunity as a defense against civil suits.
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