Denver DA releases decision letters on fatal police shootings of two armed men

The Denver District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday released two decisions letters on fatal police shootings earlier this year, clearing officers of criminal charges in the incidents.

The separate shootings happened May 30 and June 13, resulting in the deaths of Shannon Wright and Duane Manzanares, respectively. Wright was shot at South Platte River Drive and West Alameda Avenue, Manzanares at 8890 E. Colfax Ave. Both men were armed, Wright with a rifle and Manzanares with a handgun tucked into the back waistband of his pants.

The DA’s investigation concluded that the shootings of Wright and Manzanares were legally justified and that no criminal charges are warranted against the Denver officers involved, according to the Aug. 4 decision letters to Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen.

Officers William Bartz and Richard Eberharter were involved in the shooting of Wright. Officers Samuel Bailey, Ryan Nelson and Steven Whiteman were involved in the shooting of Manzanares.

On May 30, police received a call about a man, Wright, carrying a rifle who had just left a store without paying for items. Wright told the store clerk that he was “out tonight shooting police,” according to the decision letter.

Bartz and Eberharter responded and encountered Wright with a rifle slung over his shoulder. The officers commanded Wright to drop the weapon, but he instead raised the rifle and pointed it at the pair, the decision letter said. Bartz, armed with a rifle, fired twice. Eberharter, armed with a handgun, fired three times. Wright was taken to a local hospital where he died. Investigators recovered a weapon, a Norinco SKS assault rifle, at the scene along with a plastic bag of ammunition.

The officers were forced to make a split-second decision to shoot Wright in self-defense and the defense of others, according to the letter signed by District Attorney Beth McCann.

Their action was justified under Colorado law and legal requirements, the letter said.

Manzanares was shot June 13 on East Colfax Avenue after he fired a handgun at a Mercedes-Benz automobile. When officers encountered him the gun was tucked into the back waistband of his pants, the decision letter said. Manzanares refused orders to raise his hands and was argumentative with police. He reached for the gun in the small of his back, which the officers had observed while responding to the incident, and the officers fired.

Bailey fired four times, Nelson twice and Whiteman five times, according to the letter.

Manzanares, who lived in Pueblo, was in Denver at the time because his 8-year-old son had been diagnosed with leukemia and was in an area hospital.

Officers’ body camera footage was among the evidence considered in both shooting investigations. Like in the Wright shooting, officers made a split-second decision based on their safety and the safety of others, according to the Manzanares decision letter.

Manzanares’ family members, including his mother, Mary Ann Medina, attended a presentation by the DA’s office Wednesday, which included viewings of body camera footage.

“I watched the video, it was a disgusting display of organized crime,” Medina said of the shooting. “They cold-blooded murdered my son.”

Officers made no attempt to de-escalate the encounter, Medina said.

Manzanares had reached to his back pocket for a bottle of whiskey when he was shot, she said.

“My son did not want to die, you could see it in his face.”

McCann will discuss the cases and present findings in an online community meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 17, at 5:30 p.m. at

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