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Police Accountability Protest At State Capitol Turns Violent With Shots Fired, Property Damage

DENVER (CBS4) --  Police in Denver rushed to the state Capitol on Thursday evening on reports of shots fired during a police accountability protest that turned violent. The protest stretched for more than four hours as crowds also continued to block traffic not just around downtown Denver but also on I-25 and then returned to the state Capitol where protesters smashed the windows of a Colorado State Patrol cruiser.

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Witnesses claim six or seven shots were fired at about 5:30 p.m., shortly after most of the demonstrators had left the area to protest in the streets of downtown Denver. Denver police confirmed the report and said there are no reports of any injuries.

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"I was just sitting on the right side of cap hill there right by the stairs man. Peaceful protest, people were sitting, lot of people out here to support. And then we hear shots fired right away, it's 5:30… man this thing just started. This is some BS," said one witness who didn't want to be identified.

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Spencer Wilson with KKTV, CBS4's partner station in Colorado Springs, said police ordered people to get down on the ground, then "took off towards the west lawn."

Wilson shared video of people lying on the sidewalk and the grass. Police said they were investigating in the area of West Colfax Avenue and West 15th Street.

Police had not made an arrest in the shots fired investigation as of 10 p.m. Thursday.

PHOTO GALLERY: Police Protest Turns Violent In Downtown Denver

The demonstrators were protesting the death of an unarmed black man in Minnesota.

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George Floyd died while being arrested. He told an officer "I can't breathe" while that officer had his knee on Floyd's neck.

On Thursday night in Minneapolis, protesters set fire to a police station after rioting broke out in the city.

Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen released this statement, in part, in regards to what happened in Minneapolis: "The actions and type of force used by the Minneapolis police officers... are inexcusable. Treating those we serve with respect is of the utmost importance to me as Chief and those who make up DPD"

Protesters are also calling attention to other black Americans who died at the hands of police, including Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed in her bed in Louisville, Kentucky, while police were executing a warrant.

"I want to be part of the change. I'm tired of seeing black people die just because they're black," said protester Cedrick Wright.

After gathering at the Capitol, hundreds of protesters marched down Lincoln Street and then Broadway, blocking traffic.

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Police officers helped control traffic in the area but did not stop the protesters.

"This shouldn't be our norm, police violence should not be the norm," said one protester who did not want to be named.

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They started to make their way to Interstate 25 at 20th where the group blocked traffic in both directions about 7 p.m.

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Denver Mayor Michael Hancock tweeted, "You can be angry. You can be outraged. I certainly am and I join you in those feelings and demands of #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd. March for justice and to see it served, but please march in peace. Responding to violence with violence will only lead to more violence."

He then followed up that tweet with a video statement.

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Rep. Leslie Herod, a Democrat representing Denver, released the following statement after shots were fired into a protest at the Capitol in support of George Floyd: "This evening, I joined protesters outside the Capitol in support of George Floyd who was murdered by the police in Minnesota. Shots were fired into the peaceful protest. We will continue to make our voices heard and demand justice for Black communities. We will not be deterred by this unspeakable act of violence."

RELATED: Police Chief: Officers Who 'Don't Have An Issue' With Floyd Arrest Should Turn In Badges

Gov. Jared Polis also tweeted on Thursday night, "Tonight is a very sad night for our state. While we are still uncovering all of the facts, a protest regarding the killing of George Floyd devolved into vandalism and violence, and I was absolutely shocked by video evidence of a motorist attempting to run over a protestor."

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"I think it's been great so far, I'm so glad people can still protest. The only sad thing is that is as soon as we started we almost got stopped because of people shooting and stuff like that, kind of heartbreaking," said Wright.

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The crowds returned to the state Capitol after blocking traffic on I-25 and congregated on the steps to pound on the doors. They were carrying signs and flags.

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A few broke away from the group pounding on the doors of the state Capitol and smashed out the windows and windshields of a Colorado State Patrol cruiser and another vehicle parked next to it. That vehicle reportedly belongs to a state Senator. Copter4 flew over the crowds as the damage happened.

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The group left the state Capitol and continued their march in Capitol Hill, where police in riot gear were waiting at Colfax Avenue and Washington.

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Police in riot gear blocked the street where the protesters were heading. Officers threw flash-bang devices in the street to disperse the crowd. They also used pepper spray and/or pepper balls to keep the crowd under control.

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There were instances of police seen detaining protesters throughout the rally. It is unclear whether those protesters were arrested or detained.

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There was a large police presence surrounding the state Capitol at 10 p.m. with just a few smaller groups gathered on the street corners.

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It's unclear whether those were spectators or whether they played a part of the protest.

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