A state trooper was justified in the shooting death of a 58-year-old Nevada man who brandished a gun after being stopped by authorities in December near Avon, the 5th Judicial District ruled.
Trooper Joel Juenke’s decision to shoot Alvern Walker was “justifiable self-defense and a justifiable self-defense of others,” Heidi S. McCollum, assistant district attorney, said in a decision letter.
About 8:15 p.m. Dec. 5, the State Patrol stopped a U-Haul truck in a Walgreens parking lot in Avon. Walker, a passenger in the truck, began verbally confronting the trooper, spewing nonsensical language, the DA said in the letter.
After the trooper called for backup, Walker pulled out a handgun and placed it under his chin with the barrel pointing up, the district attorney said. Officers gave Walker more than 50 commands to drop the weapon, as the man waved it around his head, walking near the Walgreen entrance.
An Avon police officer attempted to use nonlethal force by shooting Walker with a beanbag round designed to disarm him. At the same time, another officer used a Taser.
Thinking the shot he heard may have come from Walker, Juenke fired, hitting the armed man, the decision letter said. Walker was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The assistant district attorney noted that there were communication issues during the tense negotiation brought on by the fact that multiple agencies — the State Patrol, Avon police and the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office — were attempting to coordinate with different dispatch centers.
“Basically, the sequence of events was rapidly evolving, and the dangerousness of the situation was fast-unfolding, to such a degree that responding agencies were unable to most effectively coordinate their communications because doing so would leave them and others vulnerable to the danger presented by Mr. Walker,” McCollum wrote.
Authorities found that Walker had struggled with drug use, possible mental health issues and difficulties transitioning back into society. Walker had been on parole in Nevada stemming from a 1983 murder conviction. He had tested positive in a recent drug test and recently had been admitted to a hospital because of a “meth binge,” the district attorney’s office said.
“In the hours preceding the incident, Mr. Walker was also displaying odd behavior and experiencing psychosis due to drug use and/or mental illness,” McCollum wrote.
The driver of the truck told police that Walker said, “They’re going to shoot me. They’re going to shoot me. I’m gonna kill them,” according to the decision letter.