Tuesday, December 10, 2019

De'Von Bailey dominates City Council meeting Dec. 10

Posted By on Tue, Dec 10, 2019 at 5:11 PM

click to enlarge Rachel Stovall speaks to City Council on Dec. 10. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Rachel Stovall speaks to City Council on Dec. 10.

On the morning of Dec. 10, drivers heading southbound on Interstate 25 into Colorado Springs were greeted by a slightly different version of the "Olympic City USA" sign recently installed west of the highway.

Red paint had been splashed on the sign along with the words "De'Von will not RIP," the Associated Press reports. The graffiti references 19-year-old De'Von Bailey, who died in August after Colorado Springs Police Department officers shot at him on Preuss Road, near Adams Park in Southeast Colorado Springs.

The officers responded Aug. 3 to a report of an armed robbery and asked Bailey to put his hands up so police could conduct a search. Bailey, instead, turned and ran, his hands dropping out of sight, at which point the officers shot him and later recovered a gun from his gym shorts. The officers' actions were later deemed justified by a grand jury.

But months after the shooting, the incident continues to polarize Colorado Springs residents. While some defended the officers' actions, others called for a third-party investigation, saying Bailey's death was unjustified.

Most recently, community members were angered when city code enforcement officers, accompanied by police, dismantled a makeshift memorial to Bailey, which included spray painted graffiti on the road.

Some of those community members made those feelings known at the Dec. 10 City Council meeting.

"I’ve lived in Colorado Springs a majority of my life, and I have never seen so many citizens afraid of the police," Rachel Stovall, a Southeast community activist and Gazette columnist, told Council. "Colorado Springs leadership needs to formally apologize for desecrating the memorial of De’Von Bailey." 

Stovall also accused Councilor Yolanda Avila — who represents the Southeast City Council district that includes the "K-Land" neighborhood where Bailey lived — of "silence" on the subject of the shooting.

"How dare you say that I have been silent," Avila responded, telling Stovall that she had held conversations with community members but refused to sensationalize the issue.

"A lot of this fueling of the fire has happened from within, [with] people that really don’t care about the De’Von Bailey family," Avila said. "It’s about your 10 minutes of fame."

Other speakers called out city councilors for not showing up to a recent NAACP Colorado Springs meeting, though several councilors claimed they had not received an invitation, or had missed it with flooded inboxes.

"With the short-term rental issue, we were [getting] 800 emails at a time," Council President Richard Skorman said.

Henry Allen, president of the Pikes Peak Southern Christian Leadership Conference, advised a "City Council-wide" approach to the De'Von Bailey shooting, "or the thing is going to blow up on you." Allen also voiced concern that the police department has de-emphasized community policing under the new leadership of Police Chief Vince Niski.

Several City Council members, including Skorman, Avila and Councilor Andy Pico, said they were concerned about the memorial's removal.

"When we look at all the trash around the city — ... We need to not even have a scrap of paper left before we look at desecrating a memorial," Avila said.

Meanwhile, the graffiti on the Olympic City sign has been removed, police spokesperson Lt. Jim Sokolik confirmed the afternoon of Dec. 10. Sokolik says the police department doesn't have much information and is still investigating the incident.

Editor's note: This story has been revised to show Rachel Stovall is a columnist at the Gazette, in addition to her activist work.

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