The parents of a 22-year-old Christchurch man killed by US police say a $US19 million (about $NZ30m) settlement reflects the immense injustice their son suffered.
Christian Glass called 911 for help after his SUV became stuck in a remote Colorado town last June. During the call Christian said he was being followed, and made other statements that indicated he was suffering from a mental health crisis.
Several police officers were dispatched, and after about an hour of negotiations Glass was shot five times while still in his car.
Simon and Sally Glass told Morning Report they hope the changes that have been promised to police training in Colorado as part of the settlement will reduce the risk of any other families having to lose a child this way.
But Christian’s mum Sally Glass said it had been a long battle to get to this point through the civil case, and they expect a criminal case to ahead early next year.
“It’s just been … awful. It’s nearly a year – Christian was murdered nearly a year ago,” Sally Glass said. “But it is the culmination of a lot of work, determination … [from] us and particularly our lawyers, to uncover the truth to get to the bottom of what really happened that night.
“So I feel it’s been a bit of a fight. But what has happened is that our dear son, his name has been cleared of any wrongdoing. The police were completely in the wrong, and the large settlement really sends that strong message.”
Sally Glass said a park would be named after Christian, some of his art would be displayed in the Colorado state capital, and the family would have input into the changes made by police.
“That’s such an important piece, because victims need to be be a part of this so that the police can see their actions cause utter loss and devastation for us that we have to live with.
“And you know, maybe they’ll pause and think – maybe when police officers see another one of their tribe acting horrendously and unlawfully they will step in and say ‘stop, stand down, what are you doing?’
“A rogue cop is a dangerous cop, and if we can, through better highlighting this issue and getting better police training – another family will never have to stand in our shoes.”
Simon Glass said clearing up what had happened after Christian called emergency services asking for help had been a challenge, but the legal facts stood out clearly once light was shed on the events.
“We were told initially that Christian attacked the police and they were forced to defend themselves. I think the body cam footage did help a lot, but the very first thing that happened was once lawyers got involved they went and watched that and immediately they could see that this was murder.
“We’re pleased the body cam footage has shown the truth, and that the agencies involved have in the most part come clean and said ‘yes this was wrong, this was murder’.
“Christian had a very strong sense of justice, he would have been horrified at what was done to him, I’m sure he was, and we feel we must clear his name – initially the account of events was lies…
“So it’s been a long process. … For us it’s been a huge loss and it’s been very difficult.”
Settlement of the civil case was a big step on a long road, Sally Glass said.
“In a way we haven’t really had a chance to grieve… the fight for justice has been quite all-consuming… I think with this ending now, this part of it will give us some space to grieve for our son.
The criminal case would be the next big step and she hoped it would definitively reflect that the officers actions that night were not acceptable.
“It’s our fervent hope and expectation that the bullies that murdered our son will end up behind bars for a very long time.”