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Family of 12-year-old auto theft suspect call for charges against vehicle owner who killed him

The man was tracking his stolen vehicle using an app when he was "involved in an exchange of gunfire" with those inside the vehicle, according to Denver police.
Elias Armstrong
Posted at 3:52 PM, Feb 24, 2023

DENVER — The family of a 12-year-old auto theft suspect in Denver who was shot and killed by the vehicle owner say the man should face criminal charges.

Sometime Sunday, Feb. 5, the Denver Police Department received a report of an auto theft.

The vehicle owner told authorities he was tracking the vehicle using an app, and found it later in the day.

When the owner approached the car, he was "involved in an exchange of gunfire" with those inside the vehicle, according to Denver police.

A juvenile male drove the car, where officers found him suffering from a gunshot wound. He was taken to the hospital and later pronounced dead.

The Denver Office of the Medical Examiner identified the juvenile as Elias Armstrong, 12.

The Denver District Attorney's Office decided to not file charges against the vehicle owner. Carolyn Tyler, public information officer for the DA's office, said the office concluded it would not be able to meet its ethical obligation of proving any charges guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Single-digit temperatures did not stop family members from coming out to remember Elias Thursday night.

"Elias was a ball of energy. He was my birthday twin," his stepmother, Turquisha Armstrong, said. "Twelve years old, had a great smile, great at math. He was a sixth grader doing eighth-grade math. He was very intelligent."

The family acknowledges Elias was caught up with the wrong crowd that day but does not believe he should have been killed.

"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," said Alicia Henderson, Elias' sister.

Investigators are staying tight-lipped about what led up to the shooting.

"We miss Elias a lot. It's very painful," said Henderson. "I'll never get over this, I'll never stop fighting for it until something is done about it. 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."

Since no charges have been filed, the vehicle owner's name has not been released.

It is believed other occupants of the vehicle ran off before officers arrived. Denver PD says the investigation is still ongoing.

This article was written by Danielle Kreutter for Scripps News Denver