DENVER (AP) — A Colorado city has reached a nearly $2.8 million settlement in a lawsuit filed by the mother of a man killed by police in 2021 after taking heroic actions to stop a gunman who had shot another officer, a law firm announced Thursday.
Kathleen Boleyn filed the lawsuit in June 2022, a year after the midday shootings in the main square of Olde Town Arvada, a historic shopping and entertainment area about 7 miles (10 kilometers) northwest of downtown Denver.
Boleyn said her son, Johnny Hurley, ran toward danger and shot the gunman, Ronald Troyke, who had just fatally shot Officer Gordon Beesley. An investigation found Troyke, who died after Hurley shot him, was intent on killing as many officers as he could that day.
Boleyn remembered her son Thursday as a talented chef who rode skateboards and snowboards, enjoyed winter camping, had a beautiful singing voice, and could “bust out some pretty incredible dance moves.”
“You can’t erase what Johnny did just because his life was erased,” Boleyn said. “Without my son, my life is diminished. But without Johnny’s heroic spirit, the world is diminished. In the two years and three months since this happened, I find that I’m stronger than I thought I was and sadder than I used to be.”
The lawsuit said Hurley, 40, was crouched down with a rifle pointing down and not in a threatening position when he was shot, adding that a witness said Hurley was taking the magazine out of a rifle that he took away from the shooter.
A district attorney investigation cleared the officer who shot him, Kraig Brownlow. The investigation said it appeared to the officer that Hurley was reloading the rifle or trying to fix something on it. District Attorney Alexis King has said that Brownlow thought Hurley was a second shooter and that he only had a moment to stop him from hurting others.
“Mr. Hurley’s heroic intervention saved lives that day. His bravery and selflessness will never be forgotten,” the Rathod Mohamedbhai law firm and the city of Arvada said in a joint statement. “Recognizing that this was a horrible set of circumstances for all involved, the parties have agreed to settle this matter.”
The trial in the civil lawsuit had been scheduled to start on Oct. 6.
“Johnny was a hero, not just because I say so,” Boleyn said. “Ask anyone who was in the square that day. Ask the chief of police. Ask the community of Arvada. I think they all remember clearly what happened that day."
She said people have come up to her crying saying, “'I know I'm alive because of what your son did.'”
Brownlow was one of three officers who had heard shots on June 21, 2021, and spotted Troyke from inside a nearby police substation. None of the officers inside the substation knew that Beesley, a 19-year department veteran and beloved school resource officer, had been shot or that Hurley had intervened, according to the district attorney’s investigation.
The lawsuit charged that Brownlow and the other two officers “cowered” in the substation, “choosing self-preservation over defense of the civilian population” before Brownlow saw Hurley with Troyke’s gun, opened the building’s door and shot Hurley from behind after deciding against giving a warning first.
“He made this choice despite the fact that no reasonable officer could have perceived a threat from Mr. Hurley’s actions,” the lawsuit said. “Mr. Hurley’s death was not the result of a misfortunate split-second judgment call gone wrong, but the result of a deliberate and unlawful use of deadly force.”
On whether she forgave the officer, Boleyn said: “For a long time, I knew that my spirit forgave him. But as Johnny's mother, I struggled with how to do that. But time has passed. I am stronger.”