The family of a man murdered by Thornton police say he was innocent

Frank and Deanine Vigil hold a portrait of their son Joby Vigil in their home, June 7, 2024. Members of the Vigils want answers after their son Joby was shot in April in a confrontation with Thornton police in Lakewood. (Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

Hours before he was fatally shot by Thornton police officers in Lakewood, Joby Vigil was picking dandelions in his aunt’s yard in west Denver.

Vigil, 31, worked at the Haven of Hope shelter in Denver and often helped out family, neighbors and even friends who were down on their luck, his parents Frank and Deanine Vigil told The Denver Post.

Joby Vigil helped his new friend Jasmine Castro with occasional meals and let her do laundry at the Vigil family’s home in Barnum West. The Vigils said the pair met through friends about a month before the fatal April 30 encounter with police.

When Vigil finished pulling weeds across the street, he went inside, put the empty glass with the leftover chocolate milk in the sink, and said goodbye to his parents.

Vigil told his parents that he and Castro were going to buy the tires he bought for his Camaro on Facebook Marketplace. He told them he loved them and would meet them tomorrow after work.

But when Frank Vigil woke up the next day and started watching the 6 a.m. news, he recognized the car involved in the police shooting in Lakewood. It looked like Castro’s car.

He couldn’t wait to find out what happened, so he drove to the scene at Second Avenue and Garrison Street, where police confirmed that his son had been killed.

“We are lost,” Frank Vigil told The Post in early June. “I don’t know how else to describe it.”

Deanine and Frank Vigil initially did not want their son’s name made public and asked the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office not to release it.

However, they changed their minds after receiving body-worn camera footage of the shooting from the Thornton Police Department.

“He was executed,” Frank Vigil said. “He never had a chance to raise his hands.”

Both Vigil and Castro have prior convictions for aggravated theft of a motor vehicle, but Thornton police did not say whether officers knew who was in the car when they began following it around 2:40 a.m. on April 30. Vigil’s family told The Post that police don’t have that option. he could have known.

“The cops had no idea who they were after, or his past, or the future that they had stolen from him,” said Vigil’s sister, Regina Ortega.

Officers in unmarked vehicles pursued a car without license plates near East 84th Avenue and Washington Street in Thornton, police officials said in a news release.

Officers followed the car to 70th Avenue and Broadway in unincorporated Adams County, where they attempted to stop the vehicle, but the driver refused to stop. Thornton police continued to follow the car into Lakewood when someone from the car got out near Alameda Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard and fired at officers, according to the department. Police did not say whether the driver or passenger fired at them.

Thornton police began pursuing the car with its lights and sirens activated before crashing into it, ending the pursuit near Second Avenue and Garrison Street. One person with a gun exited through the driver’s side window – body-worn camera footage later showed it was Castro – followed by Vigil. Officers shot Castro and Vigil and both died at the scene.

Thornton police, in a May 28 video briefing, released several seconds of the shooting captured on body-worn cameras.

Videos obtained by Vigils and reviewed by The Denver Post provide more details about the minutes before and after the shooting.

Body-worn camera footage from 20 minutes before the shooting does not show the initial shooting at officers. Most of the footage shows a view of the steering wheel or dashboard, with the audio muted.

When the audio begins to play, police were chasing the car and one of the officers can be heard saying, “He’s going to jump out here and shoot at us. He hit him.”

When police stopped the car and Castro began to get out of the car, about two seconds had passed since the officers ordered Castro to put his hands up and began shooting.

Video footage shows Joby Vigil was still halfway to the car and out of sight when police began shooting. The shooting lasted less than 10 seconds.

Both Castro and Vigil lay motionless on the ground as police approached and handcuffed Castro.

Standing over Vigil with a gun pointed at him, one of the officers said they would shoot him if he fell because they couldn’t see under him to tell if he had a gun.

After seeing the gunshot wound to the head, the officer said, “We’re fine, he’s DOA (dead on the spot),” and handcuffed him.

It took police almost three minutes to start performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Castro. No officers are seen providing any medical assistance on the Vigil.

Nearly five minutes after the shooting, officers were standing nearby when one officer told another that Vigil was still breathing.

“…You might want to resuscitate him, even though he has a huge hole in his head,” the officer said.