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Man Kills 12-Year-Old Car Thief In Gun Battle, Boy’s Family Wants Car Owner Charged

Denver, CO – The family of a 12-year-old alleged car thief who was fatally shot during an exchange of gunfire with the vehicle’s owner has demanded charges be field against the man who killed him.

The Denver District Attorney’s Office confirmed on Feb. 16 that it would not be charging the vehicle owner in connection with the Feb. 5 shooting death of the 12-year-old suspect, KMGH reported.

The suspect was identified by the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner as 12-year-old Elias Armstrong, KMGH reported.

Armstrong was behind the wheel of the stolen vehicle when the exchange of gunfire occurred, according to police.

District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Carolyn Tyler said prosecutors determined they would not be able to meet the ethical obligation of proving charges beyond a reasonable doubt and said they therefore could not file charges against the vehicle owner, KMGH reported.

Armstrong’s family was outraged by the decision.

They said he was “a ball of energy” who was “very intelligent,” but who recently fell in with a bad crowd.

They have demanded the vehicle owner be criminally charged for the suspect’s death and argued the boy was just out “joy riding” that night, KMGH reported.

“Even though they were joy riding, it was never that serious for somebody to have to lose their life or for [the car owner] to track down the car the way he did,” Armstrong’s sister, Alicia Henderson, told the news outlet.

“I know the car had insurance on it, you know, there’s insurance on his car, but there’s no insurance on my brother’s life to get him back,” Henderson told KDVR. “The fact that this man was running up with the gun, showing them that he was very angry… in my eyes, they [the boys] were defending themselves, not the other way around.”

She said the car owner should at least be charged with manslaughter.

“I’ll never stop fighting for it until something is done about it,” Henderson told KMGH. “That doesn’t necessarily have to be a murder charge. However, manslaughter still comes into play because [Elias] was a child. The use of unnecessary force was present at the time and it wasn’t right.”

The incident began in the 8300-block of East Northfield Boulevard on Feb. 5, when someone stole a man’s car, the Denver Police Department (DPD) said in a press release two days after the fatal shooting.

The adult male victim used a phone app to track his stolen vehicle to the area of North Decatur Street and West 12th Avenue, according to police.

The victim approached the car and wound up “involved in an exchange of gunfire” with the occupants, the DPD said.

Armstrong’s father told KDVR that security footage of the shooting showed someone inside the stolen car firing a single round at the vehicle owner before the owner returned fire.

He said the owner fired 15 rounds and that one of the suspects fired two more times, KDVR reported.

Police said the 12-year-old behind the wheel of the car drove off to the 2900-block of West 10th Avenue, where officers found him suffering from a gunshot wound.

The other occupants inside the stolen car fled the scene on foot prior to officers’ arrival.

Armstrong was rushed to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The DPD encouraged anyone with information about the incident to contact police immediately.

The department also urged citizens not to try to recover stolen property on their own and to contact police if they find themselves victimized by theft, KUSA reported.

“I’m heartbroken that this ended in the death of a 12-year-old,” Denver City Councilwoman Jamie Torres said in a statement. “I know auto theft is a growing issue, not just in Denver but everywhere, and it’s infuriating to be victimized like that. But I discourage any resident to taking a vigilante approach.”

The family said Armstrong’s death came just a few months after his older brother, 16-year-old Torrence McCall, was involved in a police chase in Westminster, The Denver Gazette reported.

That incident occurred in October of 2022.

Police said McCall fatally shot himself during the chase, but Armstrong’s family said they don’t believe investigators are telling the truth about what occurred.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin


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