Car trouble, a 911 call and police bullet to the head: What happened to Christian Glass?

 (Glass family/The Independent)
(Glass family/The Independent)

The roads in Colorado’s Clear Creek County were dark and rocky when Christian Glass, a gentle 22-year-old with a passion for art and geology, got his car stuck and called 911, sounding increasingly scared and upset as he spoke with a dispatcher. Seven officers from five agencies responded on that June 2022 night, gathering around Christian’s car and trying various methods to get him to exit it.

He said he was afraid but offered to throw out of the vehicle anything that could be considered a weapon, such as a small geological knife he’d mentioned to the dispatcher; Christian was told not to. Instead, officers repeatedly joked and laughed with Christian and each other until, more than an hour after officers arrived on scene, the situation rapidly escalated — culminating in Christian’s fatal shooting.

Christian never left his car.

Two officers have been charged in the 22-year-old’s death: Former deputy Andrew Buen, who fired the fatal shot, and his former supervisor, Kyle Gould, who was giving instructions remotely. Both men were terminated from the sheriff’s office following the incident and are again due in court next month.

The Clear Creek County sheriff’s office has apologised to the Glass family, which has just reached a $19m settlement with four Colorado agencies — a payout that’s the largest in the state’s history.

The Glass family, who will have the opportunity to directly speak to patrol recruits, have repeatedly said they’d like to see charges against other officers present on the night of their son’s death — and pointed out in a statement through their lawyers that “Christian should be alive today.”

“This settlement sends a message that such injustice will not be tolerated, and that those responsible will be held accountable,” they said.

Here’s everything we know about the tragic death of Christian Glass.

Who was Christian Glass?

Christian was born in New Zealand and lived there until age nine, when his family moved to England before relocating to the US in 2010. He was a citizen of all three countries.

He graduated from high school in Boulder, trained as a chef, was a skilled coder and was looking with his parents for the best accreditation programme around so he could enroll. He was an artist and loved nature and geology, and on the night in question he’d just returned from a trip to Utah and still had some tools in the car when he decided to go for a drive.

Christian’s parents Sally and Simon Glass told The Independent he had struggled with depression and started taking Ritalin for ADHD and, on the night of the shooting, his roommate said he took a Ritalin pill. Ms Glass believes this may have given him a burst of energy and, when Christian was feeling antsy, he’d often go for a drive: “He just loved the peace. He loved his music.”

The Glass family believes Christian may have driven to his favourite mountain, then kept going and gotten lost.

The 911 call

Whatever his route, the 22-year-old was stuck in Silver Plume by 11.21pm on 10 June, when he dialed 911 for roadside assistance in a dark and remote area. In the recorded call, he tells the operator about the items in the car and stays on the line with her until police arrive, making a few strange statements, including references to Skinwalkers, figures from Navajo mythology he’d been studying.

“I think his imagination ran away with him,” Ms Glass told The Independent in a December interview.

Christian had no history of mental breaks or outbursts. An autopsy confirmed that Christian had only trace amounts of alcohol and THC, the active component in marijuana which is legal in Colorado, in his system. Both were well within the legal driving limit, the Glasses’ lawyer says, as well as amphetamine, a component of Ritalin.

When the officers turned up, the situation escalated fast and for seemingly no reason whatsoever. As shown in body cam footage, when Christian offers to throw any concerning items out of the car, the cops shout at him not to. They’re aggressive and armed; it’s not long before seven officers from five agencies are surrounding Christian’s car with guns drawn.

Christian is clearly terrified and is heard pleading and crying from the driver’s seat, which he never leaves. He makes no aggressive movements or statements. He tells the cops he doesn’t want to leave the car, and he’s posing no threat to them from within it. He even suggests the cops tow the car, with him in it, to a police station.

“This is the only way I can be safe,” he says desperately. “Why can’t you understand that?”

At no point do the officers seem afraid for their personal safety in the body camera footage. They bark orders at Christian and draw their guns because of the small knives, just a few inches long, in the car which Christian had already told them about and offered to throw out.

They alternately yell at Christian, cajole, laugh and chat amongst themselves, with one officer suggesting that “cute girls” on scene try to coax him out of the car. All of this happens just minutes before Christian is shot dead.

The shooting

As the officers continue to try to remove Christian, who has done nothing wrong and is the one who called them, from the car, he is shown on camera getting more and more upset.

“As they escalate and escalate, he becomes less and less responsive, because he’s more and more scared,” Glass family lawyer Siddhartha Rathod told The Independent last year. “And he’s more and more shutting down ... unfortunately, we don’t ever get to know, because they took that way.”

As Christian prays, cries, and screams in the driver seat, the officers try to pry the window open and break it. They shoot him with bean bags and tase him, causing the 22-year-old to writhe around in the front of the vehicle. Then, after Christian grabs one of the tiny knives in the car and seems to thrash toward an officer outside of the car, five bullets are fired into Christian’s body, killing him.

Mr Buen fired the fatal shots; Mr Gould was giving orders remotely.

On the morning of 11 June, police turned up at the Glasses’ door to tell them their son was dead.

The fight for justice

The Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office said it fired both Mr Buen and Mr Gould, and both men were indicted in November on charges related to Christian’s death. Mr Buen has been charged with second-degree murder, reckless endangerment and official misconduct. Mr Gould, who was his supervisor watching remotely, has been charged with criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment.

Their next court date is scheduled for June in Georgetown, near Silver Plume, and the Glass family continues to call for charges to be brought against other officers present at the scene on the night of Christian’s death.

On 23 May, the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office issued an apology to the family coinciding with the announcement of a $19m settlement.

“The events that transpired the night of June 10-11, 2022, that ended in Christian’s death, continue to be disturbing,” Clear Creek County Sheriff Rick Alberts said in an apology letter to the Glass family. “The initial press release did not give an accurate description of what occurred. Rather, as stated in the conclusion of the investigative report ... the deputy who killed Christian Glass used lethal force that ‘was not consistent with that of a reasonable officer.’”

The settlement money will be paid from four Colorado agencies, with Clear Creek County paying the largest portion at $10m. The Glasses will get to speak to new patrol recruits joining the department, and the county is also set to create a crisis response team before 1 January 2025.

In his apology letter, Sheriff Albers wrote that he has “undertaken measures intended to prevent a future failure.

“He has been working with partners to establish a program of county-wide crisis response,” he wrote, including forming a Citizens Policy Advisory Board and continuing “to prioritize Crisis Intervention Teams, Mental Health response, and Co-Responder programs.”

Other measures outlined in the settlement include a dedicated public park to be named for Christian and a virtual reality training scenario reflecting the fatal incident, focusing on de-escalating high-stress situations and also named for Christian.

On 24 May, Colorado Gov Jared Polis will speak at a ceremony commemorating Christian, and his parents will present some of the young artist’s work to be displayed at government buildings.