Colorado sheriff honors deputy after he killed man who mistakenly got in wrong car

One of the deputies in a Colorado sheriff’s office was awarded a medal after he fatally shot a man who mistakenly attempted to get into the incorrect car while picking up his brother from a nearby middle school.

Richard Ward was killed on February 22, 2022, by three close-range shots fired by Charles McWhorter. McWhorter allegedly sustained injuries to his nose, forefinger, back, knee, and neck during the incident.

Four days before the family of Ward filed a wrongful death complaint against him and his organisation in federal court, on February 17, McWhorter was presented with the purple heart medal at a sheriff’s office award event.

The local Pueblo Chieftain newspaper received confirmation from a sheriff’s office spokeswoman that McWhorter’s purple heart recognised the activities he took the day he fatally shot 32-year-old Ward.

The spokesperson allegedly then informed the Chieftain that David Lucero, the sheriff, would not comment on the choice to recognise McWhorter due to the ongoing legal action.

Ward’s mother and the lawyer defending his family expressed their fury at the slain man’s treatment by the Pueblo sheriff’s office in statements acquired by the Washington Post.

“This was nothing short of state-sanctioned murder of a citizen who should not have been arrested, let alone killed in broad daylight,” the Ward family’s attorney, Darold Killmer, said in a statement.

Ward went with his mother and her partner to pick up his younger brother from a nearby middle school on the day he was killed. While they waited, Ward went for a walk. When he returned, he went to another car and opened the door that appeared to be his mother’s.

When deputies including McWhorter arrived to look into a call about a strange individual in the vicinity, Ward had already recognised his error, apologised to the driver, and returned to his mother’s car.

According to deputy body camera footage that Killmer’s office released, McWhorter approached Ward, who – while being questioned – said he was uneasy around law enforcement officials because he claimed several had used excessive force against him.

Ward also described what happened when he unlocked the wrong car’s door, and when McWhorter asked him for his ID, he took all of his money out of his pockets. Even though he claimed to have a pocketknife with him, it turned out that he had no weapons at all.

The atmosphere of the conversation immediately shifted when he pulled a prescription anti-anxiety pill out of his pocket and put it in his mouth.

McWhorter asked Ward, “What did you just stick in your mouth?” Then, without letting Ward answer, McWhorter wrestled Ward out of the car and threw him on the ground.

“It was a pill!” Ward said. After a struggle of a few seconds that drew in another deputy, three muffled gunshots erupted, according to the video. McWhorter had shot Ward in the chest at point-blank range, the wrongful death lawsuit filed against the deputy asserts.

“Is my son shot?” Stamp yelled from the car, the video shows. “He doesn’t have a weapon!”

At the site, Ward was identified as dead. Afterwards, McWhorter asserted that he believed Ward was attempting to grab his gun. Finally, local prosecutors determined that McWhorter’s death of Ward was appropriate.

The sheriff’s office’s website no longer lists McWhorter as a recipient of the honour, according to The Chieftain, after an agency official claimed the officer had been receiving “targeted threats.” The Chieftain reported that the representative gave no further details.

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