Denver demands justice for family of Elias Armstrong
Denver, CO – On Thursday March 23, over a dozen activists and members of the community gathered in the morning outside of the district attorney’s office to demand justice for Elias Armstrong and his family.
On February 5, a white vigilante tracked Elias’ stolen car from the affluent Central Park neighborhood on the eastern edge of the city to a small, working-class community on the opposite side of town. Security footage shows that 12-year-old Elias Armstrong was standing in plain view next to the vehicle when the vigilante located it. With full knowledge that his actions put children at risk, the man drew his weapon and ran at full speed toward the stolen car. Elias Armstrong jumped into the driver seat to try and drive to safety, but the vigilante fired his gun over a dozen times into the car full of kids. Two other minors in the vehicle with Elias suffered gunshot wounds but survived the attack. Armstrong died in the car two blocks from where he was shot.
Denver District Attorney Beth McCann has refused to press charges against the man who murdered Elias Armstrong over a car. She refuses to release 911 tapes or any audio of the encounter and she even refuses to provide the name of the vigilante so that the Armstrong family could pursue a civil lawsuit. It was announced at this event that the family believes they have learned the identity of the gunman and have officially pressed charges. Beth McCann has sent her message loud and clear: She’s not interested in justice for the Armstrong family. Like so many before her, Denver’s top law enforcement officer has announced that white property is more valuable than Black lives.
The Armstrong family has a long, multi-generational history with racist violence, often at the hands of police. Elias’ older brother, Torrence, was killed by Westminster police just a few months prior to Elias. Elias’ father, Thomas, is still seeking justice for an incident in 2005 in which Denver PD left him in a coma after a vicious beating and torture. Naturally, many members of the family believe that they have been specifically targeted for violence by Denver police and those acting on their behalf. “If you want to become a serial killer, become a Denver police officer because you’ll get away with it every time,” said Thomas Armstrong.
The Denver-Aurora Community Action Committee, an organization that fights against racist and political repression in Denver and its largest suburb, have noticed a pattern of DA McCann denying justice to the victims of racist violence. This is especially true in the case of racist police violence such as the mass shooting committed by Denver PD last July which injured seven. Beth McCann was quick to press charges on one of the victims in that shooting, 21-year-old Jordan Waddy, but passed the buck to a grand jury to decide the fate of the three officers who recklessly shot into a crowd. Only one of those officers has been charged.
Belinda Wray’s son, Mark Wray Jr., was killed by an Denver Regional Transit District bus under a number of suspicious circumstances but DA McCann closed the case only 45 minutes after Mark’s death. Wray told the crowd, “My son deserves the truth! This city deserves the truth! I’m not scared and I’m gonna take this to the end!” The DA’s repeated attempts to push cases under the rug and deny justice to families of horrible crimes prompted some demonstrators to carry signs referring to her as “Cover-up McCann.”
The Armstrong family is demanding that District Attorney McCann confirm the identity of the dangerous man who killed their son, the 911 calls associated with the incident, all video footage and audio associated with the incident, and a full, independent investigation into the events of that evening. They want murder charges as well as several state and federal weapons charges pressed against the vigilante. They also want legislators to pass a law, which they would like to be called “Elias’ Law,” which forbids people from taking matters into their own hands when attempting to recover stolen vehicles. In the case of 16-year-old Torrence Armstrong, the family demands bodycam footage of the incident which has still not been released. Finally, the family demands the creation of a Civilian Police Accountability Council which would provide communities with genuine, democratic control over how they are policed.