One cop, three shots, zero proof

Joseph Chavez and his sister, Linda Lopez

by Joseph C. Chavez

On Jan. 8, 2003, Joseph Chavez was driving a car borrowed from his daughter’s mother. He was in the process of moving some of his personal belongings to another apartment. He became lost in an unfamiliar part of metropolitan Denver and inadvertently drove the wrong way through a roundabout in the town of Bow Mar in far western Arapahoe County.

At that time, Bow Mar had its own very small police department with just a few officers. In response to an apparent traffic infraction, one of them, Officer Michael Hrdlicka, used his police vehicle to pull Mr. Chavez over. 

Mr. Chavez complied and pulled over to the side of the road. What happens next changes his life forever. 

While giving instructions and shining lights into the car Mr. Chavez was driving, Officer Hrdlicka believed he saw a black handgun under Mr. Chavez’s leg. He asked for proof of registration, ID and insurance, which Mr. Chavez provided. 

Then out of the blue the officer started yelling erratically at Mr. Chavez and his passenger, Mr. Gomez, to put their hands on the steering wheel and dash. Mr. Chavez and Mr. Gomez complied. 

In the process of doing so, Mr. Chavez’s Slurpee drink slipped and was going to spill. Mr. Chavez stopped the plastic cup from falling and in the same moment three shots rang out almost killing Mr. Chavez. Mr. Chavez drove off in an attempt to save and preserve his own life. 

Officer Hrdlicka reported that he was standing just outside the driver’s side window, approximately two to four feet from Mr. Chavez, with his own gun drawn because he heard a “pop” sound that he interpreted as gunfire – although he never saw any muzzle flash in the dark of night. 

All physical evidence contradicted Officer Hrdlicka’s version of events – witnesses, ballistics, shell cases and the crime scene lab reports. 

In Officer Hrdlicka’s later statements that night, he claimed he had been fired upon one or two times by Mr. Chavez. Officer Hrdlicka consistently admitted that with his own eyes he never saw Mr. Chavez fire any shots but concluded that was what happened. 

Here are some interesting facts about Mr. Chavez’s case: The only shells recovered from the crime scene belong to the cop – all three shells. In a total of six witnesses, only one elderly lady said she may have heard four shots. 

No body camera evidence was available. The officer’s clothes were initially taken for evidence but given back to him less than a week later; at which time he destroyed them so they weren’t available to test for gun residue and other trace evidence that could have favored Mr. Chavez at trial. 

Officer Hrdlicka was on probation for lying about evidence in another unrelated case. At the end of the day, the only version of events ever told was that of a lying cop. 

In an attempt to denigrate and immediately paint Mr. Chavez in a bad light, the media issued a press release from law enforcement and claimed that Chavez was “armed and dangerous,” was on parole and then falsely reported that Mr. Chavez’s own relatives had told the police that “he will kill any police officer who tries to send him back to prison.” 

Littleton Detective Dave Cillessen told several media outlets, “He’s very dangerous for the law enforcement community.” 

Joseph Chavez and Maurice Keener, who’s helping with his case 

Everyone should be confused: Mr. Chavez never had a gun. He never shot at the officer. He drove away in an attempt to save his life. Mr. Chavez was grazed by one of the bullets and was lucky to escape this assassination attempt on his life. 

Officer Hrdlicka, a white cop, was trigger happy, gun ho and quick to kill a person of color. One only has to look at the current Black Lives Movement to understand how the cops in Amerikkka treat its non-white citizens. 

At trial, things get even more shocking. Mr.Chavez’s lawyers failed to defend him against these bogus charges. Let us look at his defense: 

On Sept. 16, 2003, Mr. Chavez’s lawyer, Sam Escamilla, was representing Mr. Chavez with a suspended law license and had to be removed from his case. Then on the same day his other lawyers, Don and Brad Lozo, terminated their involvement in Mr. Chavez’s case. 

Mr. Chavez had no notice that they would be withdrawing their representation from his case until that moment. He then had to go to trial with another lawyer, Paul Stevens, who was unprepared to represent him in a case of this magnitude. 

Mr. Stevens did not file any motions to seek additional time. He never viewed nor arranged for any defense expert to view even one of the hundreds of items held as physical evidence in this case. Mr. Chavez’s defense never retained any experts in his case nor presented any expert testimony at trial. 

Death by incarceration is still death. A rose by any other name is still a rose. Racism by white cops even when perpetrated against Brown people is still racism. The systemic racism in law enforcement is well documented.

At the end of the day, Mr. Chavez was convicted solely on the word of lying cops. In a later motion filed in Mr. Chavez’s case, the courts even admitted they were shocked by the lack of evidence on which he was convicted.

However, at the end of the day the jury had to decide who was more credible – the police officer who falsely portrayed to the media he almost didn’t make it home to his wife and is lucky to be home, or Mr. Chavez a felon on parole who was driving while Brown. 

Officer Hrdlicka was more credible even though he was proven to be a liar. All physical evidence contradicted his version of events – witnesses, ballistics, shell cases and the crime scene lab reports. 

Even with all of the facts lining up to show that Mr. Chavez was telling the truth, he was found guilty of a “crime” that was a lie. It’s no secret that law enforcement is inherently racist, crooked and will lie even when the facts are on video. 

Breonna Taylor and George Floyd are only two victims of racist cops. So many others go unnoticed. Black lives matter, but so do Brown. 

All people of color have been assassinated, denigrated and abused by law enforcement. Mr. Chavez was given 96 years and will die in prison unless he gets help. 

Death by incarceration is still death. A rose by any other name is still a rose. Racism by white cops even when perpetrated against Brown people is still racism. The systemic racism in law enforcement is well documented. 

The town of Bow Mar, a suburb of Denver, is so small that its municipal government law enforcement consists of one police car and one policeman.

The color of justice in America today is what I would like to do a quick experiment with everyone reading this article – please be honest with yourself as you do it: 

Imagine you are in the Deep South and you are a White American. A little Black girl is accidentally shot and you are put on trial for this crime. Now, you didn’t do it, to be clear. However, you have a Black judge, a Black DA, a Black lawyer and an all-Black jury. 

Do you think you will get a fair trial? Do you think they will be biased? Do you think they will convict you just so someone pays for the little Black girl’s death? Do you think there will be justice? 

In Amerikkka, racism exists. Law enforcement will lie. All cops are not bad. All White people are not racist. I think as Americans we all want to be treated equally. However, that isn’t always the case. 

Until we can admit that there is something wrong with our justice system, there can be no change. Please help us right a grievous wrong. 

Help us find justice. Help us save Joseph Christopher Chavez. 

Call or write the governor’s office in Colorado and request or demand that Mr. Chavez receives clemency for this crime he is innocent of: Gov. Jared Polis, 136 State Capitol Building, Denver, CO 80203-1792, phone 303-866-2471.

Send our brother some love and light: Joseph C. Chavez, 105424, P.O. Box 999, Canon City, CO 81215. Joseph’s daughter, Josephine, writes: “Please read this letter with an open heart and help my father have his story heard. Because of a cop’s lies, I have been without my father for 17 years; I am only 23 years old. Thank you.”