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Floyd protests in Denver: Shots fired, protester hit by car, officers injured

Floyd protests in Denver: Shots fired, protester hit by car, officers injured
Posted at 5:45 AM, May 29, 2020

DENVER — A shooting that left no reported injuries near the state Capitol in Denver Thursday afternoon kicked off what would be an hours-long protest calling for justice for George Floyd, a man who died while in the custody of Minnesota police this week .

Hundreds of people were involved in the protest and march, which started around 5 p.m. at the state Capitol before parts of the group split off and marched to near Coors Field.

The people involved in the protest were carrying signs and shouting, "I can't breathe," which Floyd was filmed saying as a police officer maintained pressure on his neck before he died earlier this week.

The demonstrations saw vandalism by protesters and reported tear gas and pepper balls used by Denver police.

Police said Thursday night that they were not sure how many people were injured during the protests. They confirmed a "few" officers were among those injured, but none of the injuries were considered serious.

There were multiple arrests over the course of the protest, but an exact number was not immediately available.

In a statement late Thursday evening, Colorado House Democrats said they would not convene Friday or Saturday, "to allow space for protests that we expect to continue on Friday and into the weekend."

Police said they plan to hold a news conference on Thursday's events on Friday.

Shots fired near Capitol

Denver police confirmed around 6:25 p.m. local time that shots were fired near Colfax Avenue and 15th Street, right outside the Capitol. Police said they were not sure if the shooting was related to the protest.

Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, said in an interview from inside the Capitol Thursday evening that someone fired five or six shots into the crowd from a bus stop nearby.

Herod said those in the crowd ran while Colorado State Patrol troopers ushered people back inside the Capitol to shelter in place, where they stayed for several hours. The shelter-in-place was lifted 8:15 p.m. local time. Herod said that a bullet hit the Capitol building.

"We will continue to make our voices heard and demand justice for Black communities," Herod added in a statement. "We will not be deterred by this unspeakable act of violence."

Denver police said the investigation into the shooting is ongoing. As of 9:50 p.m., nobody had been arrested in connection to the shooting.

Other reports of injuries

Jo Acker said her 20-year-old stepson, Michael Acker was hit in the right eye by a rubber bullet . She said it was his first protest and one of the first in which she and her husband, Gene Acker, have not participated.

According to Gene Acker, Michael Acker had told him that he had gone to help a woman who had been shot with at least one rubber bullet when he got shot himself.

According to his father, a local hospital said Michael Acker's eyelid was lacerated, and he'd need a CAT scan and MRI.

At one point, a bystander captured video of a car caught in the middle of the protests near the Capitol, turning around and hitting a protester before leaving the scene. Around 10 p.m., Denver police said that nobody had been arrested in connection to this incident, but they are asking for the person who was hit to reach out to police so they can help identify the suspect driver.

Images from the scene also showed damage to cars in the area of the protest.

Reaction from local officials

Around 7:45 p.m. local time on Thursday, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock released a video statement on Twitter , saying he had just learned that shots were fired near the Capitol.

"Listen, I certainly understand everyone's frustration and pain and disgust following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis," he said. "But I want to plead to everyone — let's demonstrate, but let's demonstrate peacefully. Leave the weapons home and let's walk, let's march together in unity and let's have our voices heard but keep everybody safe. That's the way we need to do this."

Shortly afterward, Murphy Robinson, executive director of the Department of Public Safety, released a statement saying he is outraged by the events in Minneapolis but urged those protesting in Denver to march in peace.

"Violence only feeds violence and at its worst, it has the potential to harm innocent people," the statement read. "The Department of Public Safety stands alongside our residents to ensure our staff act appropriately enforcing the laws of our city. My expectations as the director is that we hold our staff to the highest standards and under my leadership, nothing less will be tolerated. I urge everyone in Denver, both residents and officers, to treat each other with the respect they deserve."

Gov. Jared Polis issued a statement Thursday night calling it "a very sad night for our state."

"Coloradans are better than this. I share the immense anguish we all feel about the unjust murder of George Floyd. But let me be clear, senseless violence will never be healed by more violence," Polis' statement read, in part. "These are extremely difficult times for our state, country, and world. Now more than ever we need to lift each other up and do right by each other. I ask everyone to make their voice heard peacefully and to turn their anger into advocacy and action -- never violence."

This story was originally published by Blair Miller on KMGH in Denver.