BRIGHTON | A man accused of shooting an Aurora police officer late last year told his brother he had no choice other than to open fire as two officers approached him during a traffic stop, according to court testimony given by an Aurora detective Thursday morning.
Jahvell Forrest is accused of shooting and seriously wounding Aurora police officer Ryan Burns Nov. 14 after a routine traffic stop, then fleeing the scene, prompting a days-long manhunt.
In a preliminary hearing that offered the public’s first glance at the evidence against Forrest, 20, Aurora Detective Chuck Mehl testified that Forrest’s brother, 17, told the detective that Forrest was “scared and had no choice,” than to shoot at an Aurora police officer during the November traffic stop. Forrest had a .40-caliber handgun and multiple active warrants for his arrest, police said.
Following a short cross-examination, Forrest’s public defender Emily Lieberman asked the judge to drop the most serious “attempt and deliberation” charges currently facing Forrest by arguing that his actions did not meet the state’s definition of deliberation.
Adams County Judge Michael A. Cox ruled against the request and found there was enough evidence to try Forrest on all 13 counts. The charges include first-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault. Forrest’s arraignment is set for 8:30 a.m. Feb. 19 in Adams County district court.
Forrest and his brother were on the run for several days following the shooting, though detectives were able to track and identify them through cell records based on calls they made shortly after the crime, according to Aurora Detective Warren Miller, the lead investigator on the case.
Prosecutors said Forrest’s brother told friends at a party the night of the shooting that Forrest was the suspect who shot and wounded Burns. Police contacted Taylor Thompson, 18, who held the party the night of the shooting. Thompson told police Forrest’s brother asked him if he had heard about the cop who had been shot that evening, and went on to claim his brother was the gunman, according to Mehl’s testimony.
Surveillance footage of the pair inside a nearby Family Dollar store on the corner of East Colfax Avenue and Galena Street also helped police in their search.
According to testimony, a car parked facing the wrong direction on Geneva Street took off westbound as police approached during the evening of Nov. 14. The vehicle, a white 2002 Volkswagen Pasat, then stopped abruptly near the corner of Fulton Street and East 17th Avenue, and APD officers Burns and Dale Leonard ran to the car, one on each side. As the officers approached, three shots were fired, one striking Burns in the right thigh, and the vehicle sped north before crashing into a front yard two blocks away, near the intersection of Fulton and East 19th Avenue.
Miller testified that Leonard returned fire as the car raced north, and recalled hearing Burns “screaming in pain,” while lying in the street. Police have since said Burns survived only because Leonard quickly used a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. Burns needed five liters of blood during his hospital stay and will likely miss eight to 10 months of work, according to police.
Forrest was questioned by an Aurora police officer while exiting a perimeter set up shortly following the shooting, but he used a fake name and was let through.
In a bond hearing earlier this month, Forrest admitted to the shooting and stealing the car in which he was pulled over while it was “puffing” in front of the Family Dollar store on Colfax. His bond is currently set at $1 million.
Forrest appeared in court Thursday wearing a blue and white striped jail jumpsuit with his hands and feet shackled. He made no comments during the 30-minute-long hearing.