The Denver father of a 12-year-old boy who was killed when a man tracked down his stolen car and shot the boy inside the vehicle called for a new state law Thursday that would prohibit drivers from confronting car thieves without police involvement.
“It’s the police’s job, let the police do it,” said Thomas Armstrong, father to slain 12-year-old Elias Armstrong. “No civilian should be able to track down their car and be able to approach the vehicle. I want it called Elias’ Law.”
Elias Armstrong was fatally shot on Feb. 5 by a man who used a phone app to track his stolen Audi. The vehicle was stolen from northeast Denver, and the man, who has not been publicly identified, followed it to the Sun Valley neighborhood, where he pulled up to the vehicle and sprinted at it.
An exchange of gunfire followed, police said, and Elias Armstrong, who was in the stolen car, was fatally wounded. Denver District Attorney Beth McCann declined to file criminal charges against the vehicle owner.
Protesting outside her office Thursday, Thomas Armstrong said the district attorney believed the man had a valid claim of self-defense.
He dismissed that stance.
“I just don’t think it’s right that he can take the law into his own hands, kill a kid and nothing happens to him,” Thomas Armstrong said.
A surveillance video of the shooting, which Armstrong shared with The Denver Post, shows the owner of the stolen vehicle pull up on the street beside his stolen car, park and then sprint up to the driver’s side of the stolen car as one person jumps into the driver’s seat and pulls away. The shooting happened in less than 10 seconds.
Police said someone in the vehicle fired at the man and the man also shot, though it’s not clear who fired first. Thomas said he doesn’t believe his son or the people in the car fired shots because the surveillance video doesn’t show the vehicle owner ducking or flinching.
Elias was wounded but drove a few blocks before he stopped and was found by police. He was hospitalized and later died.
A supporter of the family who joined their protest Thursday, Breeanna Wray, said they believe the shooter’s class and race played a role in McCann’s decision not to press charges.
“Had it been a Black person who ran up and shot up that car? He’d be in jail,” she said.
A spokeswoman for the Denver DA’s office did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday, but prosecutors previously have said they did not believe they could prove criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
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