By Brian Maass
ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A CBS4 Investigation has learned Arapahoe County Deputies and Colorado State Troopers poured more than 50 shots into a stationary car in March believing the driver was armed.
It now turns out she was only armed with either a dustbuster or tire jack but emerged unscathed. However at least one deputy inadvertently shot up a marked state patrol unit during the unusual standoff.
“It was all her behavior and we have to respond to that behavior,” said Arapahoe County Sheriff Dave Walcher of the March 3rd standoff with Jasmine Johnson.
It began with two drivers reporting to police that Johnson was driving erratically on Interstate 70.
Johnson subsequently called police and in slurred tones, said that she was armed with an Ak-47 and intended to kill as many police as possible. “I want to kill cops,” said Johnson on the taped call. “I’m gonna kill all the cops I can. I have a gun, have a machete, have an AK-47.”
Arapahoe County deputies and the Colorado State Patrol caught up with Johnson’s Ford Focus on I-70 near Agate at about 11:30 pm. On March 3rd. They conducted a high-risk stop, keeping their distance and repeatedly urging Johnson to show her hands and get out of her car.
“Wasn’t sure why I was being pulled over, trying to figure out what was going on,” Johnson said.
According to CSP dashcam video of the incident obtained by CBS4, Johnson responded to the police requests by displaying lewd gestures and threatening the officers with threats like, “I’m going to kill you.” Johnson told CBS4 “I was quite fearful of something happening to me if I did get out of the car.”
After about 15 minutes, believing Johnson had pointed a gun at them, officers unleashed a volley of shots into her car.
When nothing happened after the first round of shots, officers continued shouting commands at Johnson to get out of the car.
When they again thought they saw a gun, more shots were fired into her car.
“Those deputies and troopers showed a lot of restraint in not causing a further confrontation,” said Walcher.
In about 30 minutes, from approximately 75 feet away, deputies and troopers fired 55 rounds at Johnson’s car from AR-15 rifles, .40 caliber pistols, and a shotgun. Not a single round hit her.
“I am surprised,” said Walcher.
Inside the car, Johnson said she could hear the bullets striking all around her.
“I could hear them, the glass shattering. I was extremely scared and in disbelief. I was praying that I survive it.”
She did. After about two hours, law enforcement brought in an armored vehicle to approach her car. They spotted her apparently asleep in the front seat. Johnson was handcuffed and arrested although police say she struggled and tried to spit on officers.
Johnson later told authorities she had attempted to commit suicide that night by overdosing on a pain reliever, a muscle relaxer, and alcohol. When interviewed by CBS4, Johnson denied the suicide attempt, denied making those statements and denied drinking and ingesting medications that night.
Although no weapons were found in her car, a Colorado State Patrol spokesperson apparently told multiple media outlets the next morning that officers only fired at Johnson after she shot at them. CSP Chief Scott Hernandez now acknowledges that was not true. “Unfortunately sometimes things are said that’s not specifically accurate”, said Hernandez. “I don’t think it was intentional to go out that way”.
He said somehow incorrect information about Johnson being armed was repeated and shared with law enforcement and the public. “As we know the facts now, that’s not the case.”
Photos of the crime scene obtained by CBS4 also show that in the bursts of gunfire, an Arapahoe County deputy accidentally shot up a state patrol cruiser. Reports suggest the patrol vehicle was struck 28 times.
The deputy was standing immediately behind the car but was apparently unaware that many of his shots intended for Johnson were actually hitting the patrol car. Arapahoe County Sheriff Dave Walcher said,”With all the distractions and lights I don’t think our deputy realized he was hitting the top of the car”. He said his department is doing additional training to address the misfires.
A legal review of what happened concluded officers were justified in their actions since they believed Johnson had a gun and intended to kill or hurt them.
Johnson was charged with numerous felonies stemming from that standoff, but court records show most charges were dismissed when Johnson pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor menacing. She was sentenced to three years probation.
Johnson, who offered shifting and varying accounts of her behavior that night, told CBS4 one thing that was indisputable.
“I am extremely fortunate to be alive.”
CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass has been with the station more than 30 years uncovering waste, fraud, and corruption. Follow him on Twitter @Briancbs4.