AURORA, Colo. — Three months after Jor’Dell Richardson, a 14-year-old boy, was shot and killed by an Aurora Police officer during an arrest, the 18th Judicial District Court announced that the officer will not face any charges.
The June 1 deadly shooting happened during an arrest attempt in which Jor’Dell was among a group of teens allegedly involved in robbing a convenience store. Aurora Chief of Police Art Acevedo said during a press conference in June that Jor’Dell, during the alleged robbery attempt, raised his sweatshirt and displayed a weapon that was at his waistband to the cashier.
At the same time, a woman then came into the store and was allegedly ordered to stay inside by at least two 14-year-old suspects, Acevedo said.
Jor’Dell was carrying a pellet gun at the time of the shooting, according to Aurora police.
Wednesday's announcement by District Attorney John Kellner's office said "after careful consideration of all the evidence presented by the investigation, and the relevant law pertaining to the use of force by peace officers, I find that there is no criminal liability on the part of Officer Roch Gruszeczka stemming from this OIS. Therefore, criminal charges are not appropriate or warranted related to the officer’s use of deadly force."
TIMELINE, RELEASE OF BODY CAM VIDEO
Eight days after the fatal shooting, Aurora police released the body-worn camera video from two officers involved in the arrest. The DA's report identified the two officers as James Snapp and Roch Gruszeczka.
Officer Gruszeczka is the Aurora police officer who ultimately fired the deadly shot, according to the report.
At around 4:15 p.m. on June 1, an officer called for backup after seeing a group of teens walking to a convenience store near East 8th Avenue and North Dayton Street.
At 4:22 p.m., other officers who responded to the call for backup spotted the teens, including Jor’Dell Richardson, running from the store.
Chief Acevedo said at least one of the officers attempted to push Jor’Dell into a wall and “barely missed” when another officer is heard ordering Jor’Dell to “get on the ground or I’m going to Tase you.” Acevedo said the officer was not close enough for the Taser to take effect.
Body cam video showed a third officer order Jor’Dell to get on the ground. Seconds later, Jor’Dell’s hand is in his waistband before an altercation ensues between the 14-year-old and the officer, Chief Acevedo said.
The Aurora police officer, later identified by the DA's office as Officer Roch Gruszeczka, is heard saying he is going to shoot. About five seconds later, a gunshot is heard, the body cam video revealed.
Shortly after the shooting, Jor’Dell is heard apologizing and then asks the officers for help.
“They made me do it. I don’t know who they are but they made me do it,” Jor’Dell is heard telling the officer.
Jor’Dell, who was shot in the abdomen, quickly lost consciousness and was taken by first responders to a hospital where he would later die.
During the June press conference, Acevedo refused to answer some questions including what Jor’Dell was doing with the pellet gun during the arrest or whether he had pointed it at officers. The body cam footage did not show if the teen pointed the pellet gun at officers as his hands were out of view.
“That’s part of the investigation. That’s a little bit of the ambiguity – that’s going to be the question that the (CIRT) investigation will continue (to look into),” Acevedo said in June. “We know for a fact that he used it to commit an armed robbery – there’s no ambiguity there.”
The District Attorney's final report to Chief Acevedo revealed new information on the moments leading up to the shooting and the struggle between the officers and Jor’Dell.
"While he was giving chase, Officer Gruszeczka noticed that the fleeing individual was moving as if he was holding something in his waistband or pocket. As Officer Snapp spun the individual during the tackle, Officer Gruszeczka (approximately 6 feet away) saw what he believed to be a handgun in the individual’s waistband. Officer Gruszeczka called out “Gun!” and dove onto the individual’s midsection behind Officer Snapp in an attempt to gain control of the weapon," the report read.
'He was a sweet kid': Questions remain for Jor'Dell Richardson's mom
Officer Gruszeczka then fell onto Jor'Dell's midsection with the weapon then falling underneath Gruszeczka's bullet proof vest "and pointed at Officer Gruszeczka’s stomach."
"Officer Gruszeczka saw and felt the individual reaching his hand in between their bodies to try to get his hand around the grip of the pistol. Although Officer Gruszeczka reported he had a hand on the slide of the gun, he felt the suspect’s hand at the grip of the gun and could not block the trigger," the report continued.
It was at this point in the struggle the officer removed his firearm and "loudly ordered the individual to drop the gun. In response, Officer Gruszeczka felt the individual’s fingers and knuckles moving along Officer Gruszeczka’s belly, re-gripping the pistol-grip of the gun," according to the findings report.
Officer Gruszeczka fired one round striking Jor'Dell in his midsection ultimately forcing him to "lose control of the gun," the DA's report found.
In determining if charges should be fired, the DA concluded Officer Gruszeczka believed Jor'Dell was armed with a deadly weapon and "was objectively reasonable, as was his belief of the individual’s imminent ability to inflict death or serious bodily either on Officer Snapp or Officer Gruszeczka, the evidence shows that the use of deadly physical force in this situation was not a criminal action," the report read.
It continued: "at the time of deploying lethal force, Officer Gruszeczka possessed an objectively reasonable belief that lesser degrees of force were inadequate to the situation, and an objectively reasonable belief that both he and Officer Snapp were in danger of being killed or receiving serious bodily injury," the DA said. "As such, his actions fall within the statutory framework for legally justified use of lethal force by a peace officer, and criminal charges cannot legally or ethically be pursued in this case."
When asked in June if the arresting officers could have differentiated between the pellet gun and a real gun, Acevedo said that specifications to differentiate between pellet guns and real firearms by painting the tips orange stopped happening some time ago because gang members started painting the tips of their guns orange as well.
“We have hundreds of millions of real firearms in this country… what is the purpose of a realistic replica?” Acevedo said in off-the-cuff remarks, before admitting he himself bought his 15-year-old a replica handgun. “But guess who has complete control of that? I do – and the only time he gets to utilize that is when Dad is there.”
Shortly after Chief Acevedo's press conference, Jor’Dell’s family spoke to news media with attorneys questioning why it took Aurora police eight days to say publicly that Jor'Dell had a pellet gun.
"The Aurora chief of police needs to stand in front of Jor’Dell’s family and the Colorado community and apologize for lying to them, for re-victimizing them when they were at their most vulnerable. Chief Acevedo needs to resign so that the community can begin the long process of rebuilding trust in policing," Attorney Siddhartha Rathod said in June.
Acevedo said to his knowledge, there was no surveillance video that would show more of the struggle that preceded the shooting but attorneys for the family said they spoke to a business owner that had surveillance video, which was turned over to police, they said.
Following the release of the DA's findings report, Chief Acevedo issued a statement in which he said the department is still in the process of a separate investigation apart from the Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) probe. Acevedo also offered his condolences to the Jor'Dell's family.
"Consistent with my previous statements, our officers had to make split-second decisions based upon the information available to them and their own observations. I believe the 18th Judicial District Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) made a fair and just decision today following a comprehensive analysis of all the facts over the last three months," the release read. "Regardless of this finding, the death of a young man is a tragedy for his family and extended community, and it will continue to weigh heavily on members of our department."
Aurora police release body cam video in shooting death of 14-year-old
Aurora police said its investigation is in the final stages and the findings would be released once the report is complete.
"It’s my hope that our community will come closer together and direct our collective energy toward comprehensive, meaningful and lasting solutions to empower our youth," Chief Acevedo said in the release. "It is in this spirit that I called for a summit to address the many challenges facing today’s youth ranging from high frequency of violence to lack of quality educational and economic opportunities. This effort will not succeed unless we secure commitments from a wide range of community, business, and government leaders."
On Tuesday, community leaders predicted there would be no charges in the case. Candice Bailey, a community activist told Denver7 Anchor Micah Smith she had been meeting with Jor'Dell's loved ones and other community leaders since the deadly shooting.
“We were waiting to find out if the DA’s office in fact was going to charge these officers with this heinous murder. And sadly, we were given the answer that we did not want to hear and that we did not feel justice is connected to Jor’Dell nor for his family,” Bailey said. “I talked to Jor’Dell parents and there is not a word I could ever say that could remedy or alleviate the pain that they are feeling in their lives right now. Nothing."