The police officers who shot Ryan Ronquillo were in compliance with department policy and will not be disciplined, the Denver Police Department announced Thursday morning.
The ruling, which comes after an extended secondary investigation by multiple agencies, is the same as that made by Denver’s district attorney more than a year and a half ago, devastating Ronquillo’s family.
But this time around, Ronquillo’s mother, April Sanchez, had no idea an announcement was even coming.
She received no warning that Thursday’s ruling was looming. In fact, she had no idea the secondary investigation was underway. Only the quick thinking of Sanchez’s friend, Lisa Calderon, kept the grieving mother from hearing of the ruling from the media.
Police Chief Robert White emailed Sanchez’s lawyer Thursday morning with the announcement. But the attorney is currently on maternity leave, and no one confirmed that Sanchez ever received the message.
When Chief White called Calderon about 20 minutes before the press release went out, she called Sanchez to deliver the news.
“I had to tell her over the phone, and it was very devastating to her,” said Calderon, who serves as co-chair of Denver’s Colorado Latino Forum and has worked with Sanchez since her son’s death in 2014. “It was one of the most heartbreaking calls I’ve ever had to make.”
In a note to Chief White, Calderon urged more empathy going forward. “It’s imperative that DPD develop a protocol for ensuring and confirming notification to the parents of the victims when officers are cleared, that they are informed throughout the process, which has been inconsistent from family to family, and that victim services are provided when delivering the news,” she wrote.
No such services were provided to Sanchez.
“Its almost as if she’s being re-traumatized again being told that these officers did nothing wrong in killing her son,” Calderon said. Sanchez was recovering from the news and unavailable for comment.
In 2014, Ronquillo was killed by DPD officers in the parking lot of a funeral home where he was attending his friend’s wake.
The officers approached Ronquillo under the suspicion that he was driving a stolen vehicle — he was — and a “rolling surveillance operation” ensued. Ultimately, Ronquillo struck an officer with his car, police opened fire and Ronquillo died from multiple gunshot wounds to the head and neck.
“When deadly force is used, a detailed evaluation of the incident commences,” Chief White said in his statement Thursday. “As a result of that evaluation the conclusion was reached that the officers’ actions do not warrant discipline.”
In June, Denver police changed their policy and it is no longer justifiable for them to shoot into moving cars as a form of self-defense.
This policy could have saved Ronquillo’s life.
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