The Blockbuster Shooting happened in Aurora, Colorado on Saturday night, November 13, 2004, at about 6:30 PM. Aaron P. Davis, 39, and his wife, Benita Coleman-Davis, 36, pulled into the Blockbuster video store [no longer open] parking lot at Mississippi and Chambers Road. They parked their Toyota 4-runner intending to order take-out food from a restaurant adjacent to the video store. While Benita was in the restaurant 52 year-old Glen Eichstedt entered the parking lot in his Ford Mustang and parked next to Davis’s vehicle. When Eichstedt opened his door he unintentionally but carelessly banged his door into Davis’ Toyota.
What happened next still remains somewhat unclear but we know that Davis and Eichstedt began arguing over whether the ding to the Toyota had resulted in any damage. Apparently Davis believed it had and Eichstedt denied there was any damage. Witnesses said that Davis produced a bar about a foot long, which may have been a tire iron, and struck Eichstedt in head, who fell to the ground. By this time Benita had emerged from the restaurant and she and her husband stood over Eichstedt as he lay on the ground with a fairly large gash in his head. He was bleeding quite a bit, as head wounds often do. The wound later required several stitches to close it.
Fearing that two angry people standing over him were going to bash his head in, Eichstedt presented his legally-carried .38 revolver and shot both Davis and his wife. A total of 4 shots were fired. Davis and his wife were each struck twice. Davis died at the scene, largely because as a Jehovah’s Witness he would not receive blood transfusions. Benita Davis was in intensive care for a several days but ultimately recovered.
Aurora police were on the scene almost immediately. After conducting their investigation the police decided it was most likely a self defense shooting. They believed they did not have probable cause to arrest Eichstedt and he was allowed to leave. He received medical treatment for his head wound at a nearby hospital and was released.
What happened in the next few days and over several weeks constituted one of the worst legal minefields you will ever encounter. Mr. and Mrs. Davis are black. Eichstedt is white. Allegations of racial bias were immediately made, claiming that Eichstedt was not arrested because he is white and the “victims” were black. Pressure was brought to bear on then Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers to file murder charges against Eichstedt. Instead, Chambers submitted the case to a grand jury.
According to news reports at the time, Benita Davis testified to the Grand Jury that her husband struck the first blow. It was also reported that the Grand Jury found the metal bar to be a deadly weapon, at least in the manner in which it was used by Mr. Davis. The Grand Jury eventually adjourned finding “No true bill.”
Eichstedt endured relentless claims of racism, an allegation that can destroy a person in America today. Aurora police were said to be racist. The Grand Jury was said to have reached a racist result. Carol Chambers was accused of racism.
This case highlights the need to carefully adhere to the avoidance element of self defense law. Colorado is a stand your ground state. There is no legal duty to retreat. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t if you can do safely. If a confrontation can be avoided everyone benefits. All shootings of another human being are going to be intensely investigated as a homicide if death occurs, or an aggravated assault or attempted murder if the person who was shot survives.
Retreat doesn’t appear to have been an option for Glen Eichstedt in this case. At least not after he had been struck in the head and knocked to the ground. He said later that he believed the angry couple intended to bash his head in. Under the circumstances it seems reasonable he believed that. If there was an opportunity to avoid this confrontation it would have been before Davis brandished the iron bar. After that it was too late.
Even though Glen Eichstedt avoided criminal charges he was subjected to enduring ridicule and charges of racism of such intensity as to cripple most people. This in addition to what I will infer to be the terrible knowledge and regret of having taken a life.