AURORA, Colo. — A former Colorado police officer has been charged in the fatal shooting of an Aurora teen last month following a road rage argument that was caught on a doorbell camera.
Adam Holen, 36, is charged with second-degree murder in the Nov. 24 death of 17-year-old Peyton Tyler Blitstein. Holen, a former officer with the Greenwood Village Police Department, is also charged with menacing and prohibited use of a weapon.
Court documents in the case state that Holen, who left the force a week or two before the shooting, was drunk when he confronted Blitstein and some friends about their allegedly careless driving. Holen alleged that the teens cut him off as he drove home that night.
Blitstein, who lived a couple of miles away with his grandparents, was killed outside the home of a friend with whom Holen and his family are neighbors, the records show.
Tests showed Holen’s blood alcohol concentration was .193 the night of the killing, authorities allege. A person is legally intoxicated in Colorado when their BAC reaches .08.
BREAKING: @DA18th has filed formal charges against 36-year-od Adam Holen. @AuroraPD say on the night of Nov. 24 Holen and 17-year-old Peyton Blitstein exchanged gunfire after an argument over careless driving. Blitstein died as a result of his injuries. @DenverChannel pic.twitter.com/ZH4Xgk9X6P— CB Cotton (@CB_Cotton) December 22, 2021
The former police officer is accused of pointing a gun at one of the teens, at which time Blitstein pulled a weapon of his own. Both fired.
Despite authorities’ belief that Blitstein fired first, Holen was determined to be the “primary aggressor,” an arrest affidavit states.
“Adam was intoxicated. Adam chose to initiate the contact with the teens by stopping in the street and talking with them,” Aurora police Det. Eric White wrote in the affidavit. “As things were getting more heated, Adam chose to stay instead of driving away.
“Adam chose to get out of his truck and walk toward the teens. Adam chose to confront Peyton and (another teen) with his handgun pointed at them. (I believe) Adam knowingly caused the death of Payton.”
Aurora police officials said Wednesday that patrol officers were called around 10:30 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving to the 4900 block of South Addison Way, where gunshots had been fired. The officers found both Blitstein and Holen suffering from bullet wounds.
Blitstein was shot four times in the upper torso and once in the arm. The teen was taken to Parker Adventist Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Holen, who was struck by a single bullet in the hip, was treated at SkyRidge Hospital and released.
‘Taking his last breaths’
The 40-page arrest affidavit details what allegedly took place the night Blitstein was slain.
White wrote that the first officers on the scene arrived to find both Blitstein and Holen in front of a neighbor’s home. Blitstein was lying on the road.
The neighbor, Amber Roseborough, was performing CPR on the teen. Holen was helping her.
Authorities would later ask Roseborough if Blitstein said anything as she tried to help him.
“Amber said no, Peyton wasn’t even blinking. (He) had agonal breaths and was taking his last breaths,” the detective wrote.
Footage from Roseborough’s doorbell camera would later become vital evidence in the case.
Watch the doorbell camera footage below, courtesy of KUSA in Denver. Editor’s note: The footage contains explicit language.
When the responding officers, who took over CPR, asked who had been shot, Holen told them about his wound and said he was armed. His Smith & Wesson handgun was seized by the officers at the scene.
Holen told detectives he believed he had emptied the 11-round clip of his Smith & Wesson firing at Blitstein. The former officer, who said he’d retired shortly before the shooting, said it was consistent with what he had been trained to do as a police officer.
A Glock handgun was found near Blitstein’s body. The records indicate it was a “ghost” gun, or a gun that cannot be traced back to a manufacturer.
“The handgun appeared to be made from different parts and had no serial number on it,” White wrote.
Blitstein’s friends told investigators that the slain teen carried the gun, which contained a 31-round clip, for protection.
Body-worn camera footage shows that Holen told police that the teens, who were traveling in a red Toyota Scion, had been “racing through his neighborhood nonstop,” according to the affidavit. He said he approached the group to confront them about the speeding because he was concerned about his own children’s safety when playing outside.
Holen, who was coming home from visiting his mother, pulled up next to the teens in front of Roseborough’s home, which is about seven doors away from his own.
In his initial statement, the former officer alleged that “out of nowhere, ‘three dudes’ got out of the Toyota Scion and they surrounded him,” White wrote.
He said the children shouted expletives at him and threatened to “(expletive) him up.” When he realized the situation was “about to get real,” Holen said he pulled out his handgun and had it “at the low ready.”
“The term ‘low ready’ is a police term used to describe a handgun being held out of the holster and pointed downward,” the affidavit states.
Read the affidavit for Adam Holen’s arrest below.
Holen said Blitstein fired at him first.
“This dude pulls a (expletive) pistol out of nowhere and just shoots me,” he told detectives.
He fired back in self-defense, Holen told authorities.
The other four teens who had been in the car with Blitstein ran into Roseborough’s house. One of the teens was Roseborough’s 16-year-old daughter, who drove the Scion.
Roseborough told authorities she was asleep when she awoke to yelling and her door slamming. She looked at the live footage being recorded by her doorbell camera and saw her daughter on the porch and Holen’s truck next to the Scion on the street.
Roseborough’s daughter and Holen were arguing.
“Amber said she was coming down the stairs and was opening the front door when she saw white flashes and heard several pops,” the affidavit states. “Amber said she told everyone (the occupants of the Toyota Scion) to get in the house.”
When she went outside, Roseborough said she found Blitstein lying in the road.
“Amber said Adam walked around and got into his truck and he said, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe this,’” White wrote. “Amber said Adam told her he wasn’t driving away. He was just going to park and he would be right back.”
Roseborough said Blitstein had no pulse, so she began CPR.
“Amber said Adam started doing CPR with her and she thought to herself, ‘Why am I working with a fricking shooter?’” according to the affidavit.
What did the camera see?
The teens who were with Blitstein when he died told a story fairly different from the one Holen gave the night the teen was killed.
Each of the teens denied that Roseborough’s daughter had been speeding, though they said their music was loud. The Scion also had a noisy muffler, Roseborough and some of the teens said.
Multiple witnesses described the initial moments of the confrontation.
“Who are you?” Roseborough’s daughter asked after Holen had pulled up alongside her car.
“It doesn’t matter. I have your license plate. I know where you are,” Holen reportedly replied. “This is my neighborhood.”
Several of the teens told detectives that Holen pointed his weapon at one of the boys even before he stepped out of his truck that night. The targeted teen told the friends remaining in the car, including Blitstein, that Holen had pointed his weapon at him.
“Swear to God?” Blitstein asked, according to the affidavit.
“I swear to God on my (expletive) life,” the other boy said.
The teen said that’s when Blitstein got out of the car with his gun, which he had been carrying in a backpack. Blitstein’s bag was later found on the back floorboard of the Scion.
Holen walked around his truck and was about 10 feet from Blitstein when the gunfire erupted. The teens did not see who fired first, according to the court documents.
Roseborough’s doorbell camera captured the shooting in grainy detail — detail which appears to back most of what the teens told police.
White wrote that the argument between Holen and the teens could not all be made out but that snippets were decipherable as investigators pored over the footage. At one point, Roseborough’s daughter threatens to call the police if Holen doesn’t leave.
“I didn’t want you speeding through my neighborhood is all,” Holen says.
“Then you could have asked me instead of being a creepo and pulling up to my house like that,” the girl responds.
“OK, so it’s your neighborhood, then, that you’re speeding through,” Holen says.
Blitstein and another of the teens were outside the car and standing by the rear bumper as one of the boys and Holen argued over whether the neighborhood belonged to the former officer.
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“Do you own all this right here?” Blitstein appears to ask, motioning with his arm.
“I own all of this,” Holen responds.
The yelling gets louder and one of the teens urges Holen to leave, according to the affidavit. Another person is heard yelling, “This is not your neighborhood,” though detectives could not determine who made the statement.
At 10:28 p.m., less than two minutes after the altercation began, Holen gets out of his truck with his gun.
“(Expletive) these kids, man,” he is heard saying on the doorbell camera footage.
Almost immediately, the former officer’s right hand appears to go for his gun.
“Let’s go, (expletive),” Blitstein says, using a slang version of a racial slur.
Holen raises his weapon and, as he walks toward the teens, Blitstein is seen raising his own gun.
The footage indicates that Blitstein fired the first shot, the affidavit states.
“Adam stumbles but regains his balance and continues advancing forward toward Peyton,” White wrote.
Holen fired back.
“Peyton falls backward into the open passenger door on the Scion and then falls forward and toward Adam,” the court document states. “As Peyton is falling down toward the ground, Adam continues firing at him as the gap between both parties appears to be within very close proximity.”
Holen continued firing as he backed away from the fallen teen.
The video indicates the former officer fired a total of nine shots, each visible on the footage. Two live rounds were found at the scene, one in the chamber of his gun and the second on the ground.
According to White, chaos ensued after the gunshots ceased. One of the teens is seen screaming Blitstein’s name.
“Are you kidding me?” Holen screams. “He just shot at me. I’m chill, dude, he just came and shot at me, dude. He just came and shot at me. Are you kidding me?”
The footage shows Holen screaming for someone to call an ambulance. After he drives away to park his truck at his house, Roseborough and Blitstein’s friends race down the steps and to his side.
“He’s dead,” Roseborough’s daughter screams. He’s (expletive) dead.”
As Holen returns to the scene, he asks if Blitstein’s is OK. One of the witnesses can be heard screaming that the teen is dead.
Holden crouches next to the teen’s body and insists he is still breathing. As he helps Roseborough with CPR, he talks to the fallen teen.
“Keep breathing, buddy, come on,” he is heard saying.
The teen who had been arguing with Holen before the shooting comes out onto the porch.
“You can go home,” he tells Holen. “You can go home. Don’t act like you care. You just dumped a whole clip into him, stupid.”
The boy later told police that although he believed Holen was the instigator of the incident, he felt guilty over his friend’s death. The teen felt that “if he had not told Peyton that Adam had a gun, this may not have turned into a shooting,” the affidavit states.
When questioned by detectives, Holen denied taking his gun out of his holster while sitting in his truck. He also appeared to reverse his previous statement in which he said he felt threatened by the teens.
He called them “stupid kids being disrespectful,” and said he decided to inform the homeowner of the teens’ speeding, White wrote.
“Adam said he intended to speak with the adult and let her know about the kids speeding,” according to the detective. “Adam said he initially didn’t feel threatened, and he was going to go to the house and walk right by them to talk to the parent.”
Holen said he didn’t chastise them and drive immediately home because he didn’t want them to know where he lived. He said he thought they might go and break a window or egg his house, White wrote.
Holen also told detectives he pulled the gun from his holster, which he said was on his hip, only after he saw the weapon in Blitstein’s hand.
His holster was later found in his truck, but the affidavit did not make clear if it was there prior to the shooting or if he had removed it from his hip when he drove his truck home.
Detectives also found more than 20 loose, live 9mm bullets in Holen’s truck. He said he thought he had left the ammunition there after a day at the shooting range.
Holen was booked Wednesday into the Arapahoe County Detention Center. He has since been released on $50,000 bond.
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