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Judge upholds attempted murder charges against Justin Bannan in Boulder shooting

Attorney for Former NFL, CU Buffs lineman brings up possibility of CTE during hearing

Justin Bannan walks toward the Boulder County Justice Center on Dec. 9, 2019, before a preliminary hearing. Bannan, a former NFL and University of Colorado Boulder lineman, is charged with attempted murder and first-degree assault in connection with an October shooting at Black Lab Sports in Boulder.
Justin Bannan walks toward the Boulder County Justice Center on Dec. 9, 2019, before a preliminary hearing. Bannan, a former NFL and University of Colorado Boulder lineman, is charged with attempted murder and first-degree assault in connection with an October shooting at Black Lab Sports in Boulder.

A judge today upheld the attempted murder charges against Boulder shooting suspect Justin Bannan, even as Bannan’s defense attorney tried to bring up the possibility the former NFL and University of Colorado lineman suffers from neurodegenerative disease as a result of his playing days.

Bannan, 40, is charged with attempted first-degree murder after deliberation, attempted first-degree murder – extreme indifference, first-degree assault causing serious bodily injury with a deadly weapon, first-degree assault – extreme indifference, possession of a weapon on school grounds and four crime of violence sentence enhancers.

Bannan appeared in court Friday for a preliminary hearing to determine if there was probable cause to uphold the attempted murder and assault charges.

The only witness in the hearing was Boulder police Det. Matt Greer, who was one of the detectives called in to investigate the Oct. 16 shooting at Black Lab Sports, 3550 Frontier Ave.

Greer said a woman working at Element 6, a business housed within Black Lab’s building, told police she showed up for work at about 2:25 p.m. and headed to her therapy room, which was closed but not locked.

“She opened the door and was immediately shot,” Greer said.

The woman was hit in the right shoulder and suffered a broken humerus as a result of the shooting.

Greer said the woman was able to identify Bannan, who is a part owner of Black Lab, as the shooter. Greer said Bannan and the woman had a brief conversation after the shooting before he left the scene.

“She said something to the effect of, ‘What the (expletive), you just shot me,’ and he said ‘I’m so sorry,’ and then started talking about the Russian mafia being after him,” Greer said.

Police found Bannan on the property with a backpack and a duffel bag that contained two loaded weapons, including the handgun he reportedly used to shoot the woman.

Greer said in a later interview, Bannan said shooting the woman was an “accident” and that he was hiding out in the room.

“He said that people had followed him into Boulder, into the parking lot of Black Lab Sports, and he went into the room and sat for as long as he could,” Greer said. “He said the door cracked open and he felt, ‘This is it.’”

Following Greer’s testimony, defense attorney Harvey Steinberg argued there was only enough evidence in the case to uphold the assault counts, saying prosecutors had not done enough to prove Bannan intended to kill anybody.

“This case is overcharged,” Steinberg said. “There was only one shot that was fired.”

Steinberg also argued prosecutors could not charge two different theories of attempted murder. But Deputy District Attorney Adrian Van Nice said that would be for a jury to decide, and said prosecutors had presented enough evidence to move the case to district court.

“The defendant went into a dark room and sat in a corner with a gun pointed at the door,” Van Nice said. “Whoever was coming through that door was getting shot at nearly point blank range. It was clear Mr. Bannan intended not to wound, but to kill whoever came through that door.”

Boulder County Judge Zak Malkinson ruled prosecutors had done enough to show probable cause for the charges, and upheld all of the counts.

Bannan, who is free on $500,000 bond, is now scheduled for an arraignment on Feb. 14.

At one point in the hearing, Steinberg tried to ask Greer questions about Bannan’s playing career and the possibility Bannan had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, but Van Nice objected, saying it was not relevant for the purposes of the preliminary hearing.

Steinberg said it went to Bannan’s mental state at the time of the shooting.

“It’s not relevant that he may have had 25 concussions during the course of his career and may suffer from CTE?” Steinberg asked.

Bannan played for the CU Buffs from 1997 to 2001 before being drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 2002. He spent 11 years in the NFL, including a two stints with the Denver Broncos.

Malkinson agreed with Van Nice that the questioning was not relevant for the limited purpose of the preliminary hearing, and limited the types of questions Steinberg could ask on the topic.

Greer said the only mention Bannan made to his playing days and any possible effects was in referring to himself as a “beat up old football player.”

CTE, which cannot be diagnosed in living people, has been linked to memory loss, depression, aggression and suicidal behavior, and a 2017 study found that 99 percent of players who donated their brains for research had CTE.

Bannan’s friend and former CU Buffs teammate Drew Wahlroos killed himself in 2017, and his family donated his brain for testing.

A woman with a gunshot wound ...
A woman with a gunshot wound is seen on a stretcher as Boulder Police investigate a shooting at Black Lab Sports in Boulder on Oct. 16, 2019. The woman was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

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