Updated at 7:04 p.m. on June 16, 2023
A memorial was held for Jor’Dell Da’Shawn Richardson outside the Aurora Municipal Building Friday evening. Gatherers eulogized the 14-year-old who was killed by police after an Aurora police officer detained him and shot him in the stomach June 1.
They then marched with his casket.
“It’s a gloomy day. We can stand the clouds. We can stand the rain,” Thomas Mayes, president of Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, said. “But we can’t stand any more bullets.”
The shooting occurred after Richardson, who was a robbery suspect, was tackled at the end of a foot chase. Video of the shooting and the moments that lead up to it show Richardson surrendering to the officer saying “Stop, please. You got me.”
The killing has sparked renewed calls for justice and accountability at the Aurora Police Department. The shooting has prompted several investigations of the department, including an internal review as well as an inquiry from the 18th Judicial District. APD is still under a consent decree to improve practices after investigations revealed a pattern of racist policing.
Siddartha Rathod, the lawyer for the family, called on the interim Aurora police chief to come out of the building behind them.
“We will not get justice, justice is Jor’Dell walking through his mother’s front door. Justice is Jor’Dell getting old enough to beat his brother in basketball,” Rathod said. “But what we can get is accountability.”
Rathod also called on Chief Art Acevedo to apologize to the community. According to Rathod, Acevedo lied to the community when he first reported that Richardson had a gun. It turned out to be a pellet gun.
“What else was he supposed to do?” Richardson’s mother, Laurie Littlejohn, told the crowd Friday. “Doing what you’re supposed to do wasn’t enough for them.”
“I won’t get to see him graduate from high school, go to prom, start a family,” Littlejohn said. “A police officer gave my son the sentence he wanted him to have, and he took him from me … Whatever was going on that day, it was not a death sentence. It should not have been a death sentence.”
Richardson had just completed 8th grade at Aurora West College Preparatory Academy where teachers called him a “bright, energetic, amazing kid.”
“He was loved and adored by his educators at Kenton (Elementary) and deserves to be characterized in his true light,” said former Dean Alicia Garcia in a statement prior to the event. “His smile and ability to spark much-needed laughter among both peers and teachers alike was truly unmatched.”
Two officers detained Richardson. In video footage, Officer James Snapp tackled Richardson. That is when Richardson is heard saying, “Stop, please. You got me.”
Then Officer Roch Gruszeczka is heard yelling “Gun, gun. Let go of the (expletive) gun. I’m going to shoot your ass! Dude, I’m going to shoot you!”
Seconds later, Gruszeczka fires a single shot into his upper abdomen. Richardson pleads for help, and officers call for an ambulance. He died in the hospital later that day.
“It's sad that we continuously have to do the things that our forefathers did. We still are having young men being killed by our police system. Injustice is a reality that far too many of our kids have to endure,” Rev. Quicy Shannon of New Hope Baptist Church in Denver told CPR News. “So, we're here to remember a young man in our community with the hopes that there will be some change, although we realize that has yet to be a reality for us.”
The Arapahoe County Coroner’s Office confirmed the cause of death was a gunshot wound and classified the death as a homicide.
“Our family is in mourning, we are in pain, but our entire community is also in pain. We are gathering together to honor and celebrate his life, and grieve a death that came far too early,” said Richardson’s father, Jameco Richardson, in the statement.
“Sometimes you die twice. You die when you take your last breath,” Pastor Mayes said. “But then you die again when your name is no longer called. Let's never forget Jor’Dell Richardson and never stop calling his name.”
You want to know what is really going on these days, especially in Colorado. We can help you keep up. The Lookout is a free, daily email newsletter with news and happenings from all over Colorado. Sign up here and we will see you in the morning!