The Killing of Richard Ward in a Colorado School Pick-up Line


On February 22, 2022, a tragic incident unfolded in the parking lot of Liberty Point International Middle School in Pueblo West, Colorado. Richard Ward, a 32-year-old man, was fatally shot by Pueblo County deputy Charles McWhorter. The event has not only sparked widespread controversy but has also led to a federal lawsuit filed by Ward's family against McWhorter and his agency.

Richard Ward arrived at Liberty Point International Middle School with his mother, Kristy Ward, and her boyfriend, Tommy Brown, to pick up his younger brother. Ward was observed attempting to enter a car that was not his, which led to his questioning by the police. Deputy McWhorter and another officer, Cassandra Gonzales, were dispatched to the scene following reports of a "suspicious" individual in the parking lot.

Upon arrival, the deputies approached Ward, who was sitting in the rear passenger seat of a white SUV. Ward identified himself and explained that he had confused the vehicle for his mother's SUV. He apologized to the driver and seemed cooperative initially.

The situation took a dramatic turn when Ward was asked for identification and whether he had any weapons. Ward admitted to possibly having a pocket knife and appeared to put a pill in his mouth. This action led to a physical altercation between Ward and the deputies. Deputy McWhorter forcefully removed Ward from the vehicle and placed him on the ground. Moments later, McWhorter discharged his service weapon three times, fatally wounding Ward in the chest.

District Attorney Jeff Chostner reviewed the incident and determined that the deputies' actions were "rational and justified." He stated that the officers believed their lives or the lives of others were in jeopardy. Subsequently, McWhorter was awarded a Purple Heart by the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office for injuries he allegedly sustained during the incident.

However, the Ward family took legal action. On February 21, 2023, they filed a federal lawsuit against McWhorter and his agency. The lawsuit alleges improper use of force and also challenges the arrest of Ward's mother and her boyfriend, as well as the seizure of their property.

The body camera footage of the incident was released by the family's attorney and has been scrutinized by the public. In the footage, Ward is seen explaining his actions and admitting to putting a pill in his mouth just before the altercation. The Ward family and their attorney have been vocal in their criticism of how the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office handled the incident. They have termed it "state-sanctioned murder," raising questions about law enforcement practices.