Body-camera footage shows Aurora police officers fatally shooting 14-year-old suspect

· Jun. 9, 2023, 5:49 pm
A photo of Jor'Dell Da'Shawn Richardson (in front) with his family is shown behind Dr. Thomas S. Mayes of The Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance as he speaks.A photo of Jor'Dell Da'Shawn Richardson (in front) with his family is shown behind Dr. Thomas S. Mayes of The Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance as he speaks.Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
A photo of Jor'Dell Da'Shawn Richardson (in front) with his family is shown behind Dr. Thomas S. Mayes of The Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance as he speaks.

Updated at 8:09 p.m. on June 9, 2023.

Aurora police officers shot and killed a 14-year-old robbery suspect seconds after the teenager told the officers, “Stop, please. You got me,” as he was being tackled to the ground, according to body camera footage released Friday.

Jor’Dell Da’Shawn Richardson died shortly after an Aurora Police Department officer shot him in the stomach  June 1 during a chase. Richardson had a pellet gun in his waistband during the chase, but it remains unclear whether he pointed it at officers during the chase or let go of it as officers commanded him to drop his weapon.

Aurora’s police chief Art Acevedo called Richardson’s death a tragedy during the Friday press conference, where he released footage to the public. He also stressed that multiple investigations are still underway to get a full picture of the shooting.

During remarks, Acevedo also commended officers for taking life-saving measures to save the 14-year-old, including performing CPR and calling for medical assistance. 

“No matter where we end it is a tragedy because a young man has lost his life,” Acevedo said. “There is still a lot of evidence to gather.” 

The footage from two officers’ body cameras show officers with Aurora’s Gang and Robbery Investigation Team responding to a suspected robbery at a convenience store at 4:17 p.m. on June 1. Two officers spot Richardson wearing a white hoodie and medical mask outside of the store. 

He runs from the officers, and they chase him into a nearby alleyway, where they tackle and shoot the 14-year-old within a matter of seconds. 

As officers chase Richardson down the alleyway, video shows the teenager reaching toward his waistband. 

Seconds later, Officer James Snapp tackles the teenager. 

“Stop, please. You got me,” Richardson said. 

“Gun, gun. Let go of the (expletive) gun,” said Officer Roch Gruszeczka. “I’m going to shoot your ass! Dude, I’m going to shoot you!” 

Five seconds later, Gruszeczka fires a single shot into Richardson’s upper abdomen. Video from both officers is obscured by clothing.

Afterward, Richardson pleads for help as he quickly loses consciousness, video footage shows. 

Shortly after, another officer begins CPR on Richardson. 

Officers called for an ambulance, which took him to University Hospital in Aurora. 

Doctors pronounced Richardson dead from his gunshot wound at 5:05 p.m. June 1, Acevedo said.

The Arapahoe County Coroner’s Office confirmed the cause of death was a gunshot wound and classified the death as a homicide.

Kevin Beaty/Denverite

The shooting has prompted multiple investigations, including an internal from APD’s internal affairs bureau, as well as an inquiry from the 18th Judicial Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT). The officers involved in the shooting are currently on administrative leave. 

Acevedo asked for patience from the public for the investigations to take place. He said the department has searched for other video of the struggle that led to Richardson’s death, but hasn’t found any. 

He also defended his officers actions, stating that it was impossible for them to discern in the moment whether Richardson was carrying a pellet gun or a real firearm. 

“How would you respond if someone pointed that at you?” he said during his conference, showing a side-by-side photo of the weapon. “And I’m very proud that our officers began rendering medical aid.” 

Richardson’s case is the latest shooting in Aurora to draw community backlash.

The department is under a consent decree to improve practices after several reports released in the past few years confirmed a pattern of racist policing. One 2021 report found that APD used force against people of color almost two and a half times more than against white people, based on their relative percentage of the city’s population. 

The report also found that APD arrested Black citizens two times more than white citizens.

In 2019, officers arrested 23-year-old Elijah McClain, an unarmed Black man, on his way home from a shopping trip. Officers restrained McClain while paramedics injected him with ketamine. The young man later died from an overdose. 

During Friday’s press conference, Rev. Leon Kelly Jr., executive director of Open Door Youth Gang Initiatives, called the shooting a tragedy, but urged community members to be patient with the investigation. 

“This is not George Floyd,” Kelly Jr. said. “This is a completely different thing. This was a robbery.” 

Hundreds of protesters gathered at the Aurora Municipal Building before the police press conference. 

“To know that the police didn’t even try to think twice,” said Richardson’s mom, Laurie, while addressing the crowd. “That he was a child. He’s human. People make mistakes. They didn’t give him a chance to redeem himself.”

Police said they believed Richardson was armed with a deadly weapon, but it turned out to be a pellet gun.   

“I was a captain in the Marine Corps. The second you pick up a toy gun, you know it's a toy gun,” Siddartha Rathod, the lawyer for the family, said “They knew right then and there. Their protocol says you have to clear any weapon before you transport it. How do you clear a toy?”

Rathod has represented the families of McClain and Christian Glass, who both died because of their encounters with law enforcement., He believes Acevedo misled the public. 

“This chief of police needs to apologize for telling the public that Jor’Dell had a gun,” Rathod said. “That's the first step. Stand up there and apologize. Be a man. You killed a boy. Stand up there and say, ‘I didn't tell the public the truth. I lied to the community.’ That's the first thing we can get.” 

Kevin Beaty/Denverite
Jor'Dell's mother, Laurie Littljohn, speeks to protestors outside the Aurora Municipal Building.

“When he said that my son didn't have a gun, that it was a fake gun … I knew it,” Richardson’s father, Jameco, said. “Because that ain't our boy." 

“They didn't tell the community because they didn't want the entire city of Aurora here, because that's what would've happened,” Rathod said. “He never touched a gun … And he's surrendering. Does it make sense that he's gonna grab a toy?”

During Friday’s press conference, Acevedo also shared updates on the status of the robbery investigation that led to Richardson’s death. 

He showed camera stills from inside the convenience store. They show Richardson approaching the front counter and lifting up his white hoodie. 

The shop clerk, which Acevedo said police later interviewed, said that Richardson told her that he had a gun. They stole several vape cartridges, Acevedo said.

Two other 14-year-olds are in custody, and several others have been identified. A stolen Kia minivan that several young men used to get away has also been recovered, Acevedo said. 

Kevin Beaty/Denverite
Jor'Dell's father, Jameco Richardson speaks to a crowd gathered outside the Aurora Municipal Building.

Police haven’t said why they believe Richardson got involved with the robbery, but family members interviewed by CPR News said the 14-year-old had a friend who knew some older teenagers and several men who were around 18. 

On June 1, Richardson met up with the group and wound up riding along with them in a stolen van, said Lawrence Miles, Richardson’s uncle. 

“They sent him into the store to rob the store for vape pens,” Miles said. 

The robbery was not typical behavior for the 14-year-old, said Tekyra Miles, Richardson’s cousin. 

“He was funny, smart, he had friends,” she said. “We were close.” 

When our lawyers got the information they said, this is going to really hurt even more,” Jameco said. “You can't kill me twice. You can't kill us twice. You already took so much from us.”

CPR Justice Reporter Allison Sherry contributed to this story.

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