Thomas Armstrong spoke at the vigil for his son, Elias Armstrong, on Thursday night and said the man who fatally shot his 12-year-old boy was acting like a “vigilante.”
On the previous Sunday, a man tracked down his stolen car with a GPS cellphone app. The man, who police have not identified, found his vehicle at the intersection of West 12th Avenue and North Decatur Street in Denver, CO.
According to police, the occupants of the stolen car fired at the unidentified owner. The car’s owner fired back in retaliation and wounded the 12-year-old driver.
The young boy then drove the car to West 10th Avenue and Federal Boulevard, where police found him injured with a gunshot wound. He was taken to a local hospital but later died.
Armstrong said he was told by a police detective last week that the perpetrators in the stolen car fired one or two shots while the car’s owner, who tracked them in another car via a GPS cellphone app, fired 15 rounds, “emptying his clip”, The Denver Gazette reported. According to Armstrong, authorities are unsure of who fired first.
A surveillance video shows the Feb. 5 shootout lasted only seconds as the stolen car’s owner drives up and parks in front of his stolen Audi. He gets out and rushes toward his stolen vehicle. After a short burst of gunfire, the Audi drives away.
“He approached the car with the gun, running to the car, and (then he) pulled the gun out and started shooting right away. He was upset at these kids for taking his car and he’s angry. And he’s coming to kill these kids over his car,” Thomas Armstrong said at the vigil. “It was pretty much vigilante justice.”
Police said when the owner of the stolen car approached it, there was an “exchange of gunfire” with at least one person inside the car.
Other than the brief statement, the police have declined to comment further or release any documents on the case because the shooting and the theft are both active investigations.
According to police, witnesses reported other people appearing to flee before officers arrived on the scene.
The office of Denver District Attorney Beth McCann said it would not charge the unidentified owner of the stolen car because it did not believe it could prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
In a statement Thursday, McCann said she met with the family last week to explain the decision which she said is based on the “self-defense issues which were present at the time.”
“My heart goes out to Elias Armstrong’s family in this time of terrible and overwhelming grief,” she said.
The Denver police are still investigating the incident and searching for the other individuals involved in the car theft.