20-year CSPD officer disciplined for “KILL EM ALL” comment

First seen in the Colorado Springs Independent

A Colorado Springs Police Officer found to have commented “KILL EM ALL” and then “KILL THEM ALL” on a livestream of a June Black Lives Matter protest that blocked I-25 traffic has received a 40-hour disciplinary suspension.

This comes after pressure from community activists and an internal investigation that began in July. Sgt. Keith Wrede has been a CSPD officer for 20 years. He regularly met or exceeded job expectations the last six years, according to 187 pages of job evaluations from July 2014 to June 4, 2020 that the Indy acquired through an open records request.

All commentary on Wrede’s performance was redacted from the records due to Colorado Open Records Act which requires job performance ratings to be released but not all details.

Wrede scored a high of 2.85 out of 3 possible points in 2015, but dropped to 2 points that same year. His score steadily increased until June 2018. Since then he has averaged a score of 2.43. His most recent June 2020 job evaluation scored him at 2.38.

Wrede was promoted once to police sergeant in 2015, serving in the Falcon, Sand Creek and Stetson Hills divisions before moving to the Vice and Narcotics division in 2018.

“Throughout his 20-year career, Sergeant Wrede has professionally served this community. While his statements were harmful and reprehensible, I cannot deprive the community of a good police officer and his services because of an isolated incident of an error in judgment,” police Chief Vince Niski wrote in a Monday news release.

Wrede said within the 38 pages of a publicly released interview from the internal affairs investigation, that he was at home after his last day of work before vacation when he wrote the Facebook posts under a pseudonym, Steven Eric.

The Facebook profile, which was verified to be Wrede’s by an internal investigation, displayed a profile photo of a shirt with blue #policelivesmatter printed on it.

Wrede’s comments were on a live stream of protesters blocking I-25 for over an hour on June 30, following weeks of protests sparked by George Floyd’s death in May.

Wrede says that he commented “KILL EM ALL” in reference to Metallica’s album, “Kill ‘em all,” that he was listening to on his way home from work that day. He says in the interview that he had no intention of actually instigating violence against protesters.

The album was part of his “rage playlist” which included Metallica and Slayer, which he listened to “push down anxiety.”

“This has nothing to do with Black Lives Matter; nothing at all. And I just want to be very clear about that. This is not motivated by race or bias,” he said. Redactions in the internal affairs document make it unclear what specific incident motivated Wrede’s Facebook comments.

“This was an act of anxiety brought on by something completely unrelated to that night,” he said.

In the internal affairs interview, Wrede says his anxiety grew over the multiple and consecutive days of protest, saying, “it just built and built and built.” He said he worked 16 days straight, 12 of them on protest duty, which he said took a toll on him. He relates an incident where, according to the interview, on the second night of protests an officer’s car was fired upon.

According to Lt. James Sokolik, CSPD public information officer, armored glass was the only thing that saved an officer’s life that night.

Wrede said that the bullet hole in the officer’s window got “his anxiety going” because it brought him back to a 2017 incident where he was shot at from an apartment window with a “high-powered” rifle. He said the sound of thrown rocks triggered memories of the multiple times he has been under fire while on duty. He had also responded to the 2015 Planned Parenthood shootout where an officer was killed.

He was awarded a medal of valor for “extraordinary heroism at imminent risk of serious bodily injury, demonstrating courage through their actions, in an extremely dangerous situation” for his actions in response to the 2017 shooting.

Wrede said multiple times that he later realized the Facebook comments could “negatively affect that person’s trust in CSPD as an organization,” “could have been taken to imply that CSPD officers wish to kill members of our community,” and “could be taken to be inciting people to commit acts of violence against the protestors.”

Wrede said “I make a lot of good choices and I make a lot of good decisions. Unfortunately, something outside of my control, emotionally and mentally, just overrode my logic.”

Chief Niski wrote in the release, “We offer our organizational humility and a heartfelt apology to our entire community. Please make no mistake that I do not condone his actions, or attempt to minimize the severity of harm it has done in a time of rebuilding between law enforcement and the community.”

In addition to the 40-hour suspension, Wrede has been removed from his specialized unit and reassigned to a different position within the department. The new position will pay about the same but will come with fewer specialized opportunities. The department has not released specifics regarding his new position due to concerns of public blowback stemming from his comments.