The shooting took place just after 10:30 p.m. Sunday at 63rd Avenue and Federal Boulevard in Adams County. Forty-year-old Don Cambron was killed.
Tim Collins moved from Grand Junction to Loveland a couple weeks ago with Cambron.
"We hoped for a new life. He's had run-ins with the law," Collins said.
Court records show Cambron had convictions in Mesa County for traffic violations, forgery, and theft.
Cambron hoped to leave those troubles behind and start over in Loveland.
Both men were passengers in an SUV heading home from a birthday party in Adams County on Sunday.
"There was no alcohol, no drugs, no nothing," Collins said.
Adams County Sheriff's deputies pulled them over for making an illegal U-turn and learned Collins had an out-of-state misdemeanor warrant.
The deputies took Collins out of the car and that is when a deputy saw what looked like an all-black Beretta handgun on the backseat floor.
It turned out to be a pellet gun.
"We done nothing to provoke any sort of action," Collins said.
A news release from the Adams County Sheriff's Office says one of the deputies yelled: "Gun! Gun! Floorboard!" Another deputy says he saw Cambron "lunge towards the gun."
Collins says that's not what happened.
"His hands were up. There was no doubt about it. I saw that much. And his back was against the passenger door in the back seat. And then the shots were fired," Collins said.
Radio Reference calls reveal Adams County deputies reporting shots fired and calling for medical assistance.
Cambron was pronounced dead at the hospital.
"Murder - that's the way I see it. Straight out murder," Collins said.
Collins says his friend knew better than to reach for a pellet gun in the presence of armed deputies.
"There's no rationale there at all. Except that a cop got trigger happy," Collins said.
Christina Lamb called 9NEWS from Grand Junction. She is Cambron's oldest daughter, one of five children and three grandchildren.
"They shot him and now they're trying to cover their tracks. We're all pretty traumatized by it because he doesn't deserve it," Lamb said.
The Adams County Sheriff's Office did not respond to 9Wants to Know's interview request.
In the news release, Adams County deputies say they found tools, including bolt cutters, in the SUV along with the black pellet gun.
The Adams County Critical Incident Team is investigating.
"They're not above the law. They're here to enforce the law and protect us, not kill us," Collins said.
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