Police fired pepper balls at driver before fatal shooting on U.S. 6 in Lakewood

Lakewood police fired pepper balls at a driver during a traffic stop on U.S. 6 Sunday afternoon before the driver fatally shot himself, a police spokeswoman confirmed Monday.

The incident began around 3:10 p.m. on eastbound U.S. 6 just past the intersection with Wadsworth Boulevard, when police officers attempted to pull the driver over because the vehicle was stolen, Agent Lauren Castrogiovanni said.

The driver did not immediately stop, but kept driving slowly, with officers following, until he eventually pulled over. When officers approached the vehicle, the driver warned that he had a gun, Castrogiovanni said.

“He was threatening, he had a gun but wouldn’t show it, he was sticking his head out the window, threatening he had guns, wouldn’t show his hands,” she said. “They used pepper balls to try to get him out of the vehicle, which ultimately did not work.”

Castrogiovanni said she was aware of one officer firing pepper balls through the back window of the car. A police spokesman on Sunday said officers did not fire their weapons; Castrogiovanni clarified Monday that officers did not fire their guns but that one did fire pepper balls.

She said the officer who fired the pepper balls had hoped the chemical irritant would force the driver to get out of the vehicle while the officers maintained a safe position.

U.S. 6 eastbound was closed to traffic Sunday afternoon during the investigation into the shooting, the highway later partially then fully reopened.

The identity of the man who died has not been publicly released.

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