The family of a 14-year-old who was shot and killed by an Aurora, Colorado, officer accused the police department of releasing misleading information about the teen and withholding additional video footage.
On June 9, the Aurora Police Department posted two body-camera videos from officers involved in the shooting of Jor’Dell Richardson. The teen died June 1 after he was shot once in the abdomen area by officer Roch Gruszeczka, authorities said.
Gruszeczka and his partner, officer James Snapp, were placed on paid administrative leave per the department's policy, a police spokesperson said Friday. They could not be reached at phone numbers listed for them, and the police union did not respond to request for comment.
The body-camera videos show the officers chasing Richardson through an alley following an alleged robbery at a nearby store. They repeatedly order him to stop. In the video, Snapp tackles the teenager to the ground and Gruszeczka fires a single shot after yelling that Richardson had a gun. It was later determined that Richardson had a pellet gun, according to police.
Siddhartha Rathod, an attorney for the Richardson family, said in a statement Friday that the police department failed to release several other videos, including surveillance footage, and did not release body-camera video showing the moment officers realized Richardson did not have a handgun.
"Why Aurora believes it is appropriate to pick and chose what they release and hide other information from the public is unexplainable," Rathod said. "Especially in light of the fact that they showed still photos from surveillance cameras and appear to be cherry-picking what they want the public to see."
During a June 9 news conference, police Chief Art Acevedo acknowledged that there is additional footage but said it would not be released because of an ongoing criminal investigation.
In the two body-camera videos, which the police department posted on YouTube, Gruszeczka orders Richardson to stop running and at one point says he will Taser him. Snapp yells at Richardson to get on the ground and calls him an idiot, the video shows.
In the footage, Snapp tackles Richardson to the ground. Gruszeczka is heard in the video yelling "gun, gun" and orders Richardson to let go of the gun.
“I’m going to shoot your a--!” Gruszeczka says in the video. “Dude, I’m going to shoot you!” A single gunshot is fired by Gruszeczka.
Richardson is heard screaming out. He says he's sorry and asks to be taken to the hospital.
“I’m sorry. I’m done. Help me. Take me to the hospital,” he says. “Get it. Get it. I can’t breathe. Help.”
As Gruszeczka calls for an ambulance, Richardson continues to speak. "They made me do it. I didn’t know who they were. They made me do it," he says.
Richardson was taken to the hospital, where he died.
The foot chase was sparked by an alleged robbery at a store. Police said Richardson was with a group of teenagers who stole several boxes of vape canisters. In its initial news release, the police department referred to Richardson as an “armed robbery suspect.”
A store employee told investigators that Richardson raised his sweatshirt “and displayed in his waistband a weapon," Acevedo said at the news conference. He said one person in the group told a shopper who came into the store that they could not leave.
The attorneys for the Richardson family have taken issue with how police have described the incident and accused Acevedo of "public disinformation campaign" to disparage the teen and protect his officers. They said the chief's statement was misleading and false.
"The Aurora community deserves a police department that is honest and transparent, rather than reflexively defending its officers," the attorneys said in a joint statement Thursday.
"The family of Jor’Dell Richardson demands that all the body camera and surveillance footage be immediately released, and that Chief Acevedo apologizes to the family and community for his dishonesty and disparagement of Jor’Dell," the statement says.
Acevedo did not immediately return a request for comment.
Two 14-year-olds were taken into custody on charges of false imprisonment and aggravated robbery. A police spokesperson said seven to eight teenagers were involved in the robbery, including five who went into the store and at least two who were in a stolen minivan. The vehicle was recovered unoccupied June 8, Acevedo told reporters.