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Jor'Dell Richardson, center, with his mother and brother. (Handout)

Aurora police officers didn’t know that 14-year-old Jor’Dell Richardson had committed an armed robbery when two of them began chasing him at a strip mall earlier this month and then fatally shot the boy, who had a pellet gun. 

The revelation raises new questions surrounding the June 1 shooting, which has prompted calls for interim Aurora police Chief Art Acevedo to resign. A protest is planned for Friday at the Aurora Municipal Center. 

“While they may not have had the information about the robbery at the time of the chase, they certainly had reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed,” Aurora police spokeswoman Sgt. Faith Goodrich told The Colorado Sun last week. “An officer does not need probable cause to stop or detain someone.” 

Goodrich cited Terry v. Ohio, a 1968 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that a law enforcement officer can stop a suspect without probable cause as long as they have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that a person has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime.


Body camera footage and police radio recordings released by police Friday show a police sergeant spotted a group of five Black juveniles, including Richardson, wearing hoodies and medical masks on June 1 and thought they were potentially casing businesses in a strip mall in west-central Aurora.

Shortly thereafter, police say, Richardson flashed the pellet gun to a clerk at a convenience store near the intersection of Dayton Street and East Eighth Avenue and the group stole vape canisters.

At roughly the same time the robbery was occurring, officers James Snapp and Roch Gruszeczka responded to and relayed the sergeant’s report. 

“Five or six kids all masked up — COVID masks — it looks like they might be scoping out the liquor store, the Mexican restaurant here,”  Snapp says into his radio, according to the body camera footage. “If we can set up some cars in the area. We’ve got some unmarkeds keeping an eye on it.”

The group that prompted Aurora police officers to respond to a strip mall on June 1. Jor’Dell Richarson is second from right. (Handout)

Unmarkeds refers to unmarked police cars. Snapp was the passenger in a police vehicle being driven by Gruszeczka.

“They just shoplifted out of there,” Snapp appears to speculate as he and Gruszeczka approached the strip mall. 

But officers didn’t know the robbery had occurred — or that Richardson had a pellet gun — when they tried to stop Richardson and others in the group, according to the body camera footage, police radio traffic and Aurora police. Two officers chased Richardson down an alley, ordering the boy to stop before Snapp tackled him. 

Gruszeczka then yelled that the teen had a gun and fired a single shot into Richardson’s abdomen, killing him. The pellet gun isn’t visible in body camera footage until after the shot is fired and as Gruszecka tosses it on the ground, away from Richardson.

The shooting happened roughly two minutes after Snapp made the radio call about the group scoping out businesses in the strip mall. Officers arrested two 14-year-olds who police say were also involved in the robbery. Authorities say others involved in the robbery “have been tentatively identified” and that a stolen Kia minivan they believe was involved in the crime has been recovered.

Siddhartha Rathod, a civil rights attorney representing Richardson’s family, said Aurora police didn’t have evidence to initiate what’s known as a “Terry stop,” referencing the 1968 Supreme Court decision, when they started chasing the teen.

“Running away from police isn’t justification to chase (someone),” Rathod said. “You have to have a reasonable, articulable suspicion.” 

An Aurora Police Department vehicle. (Eric Lumsden via Flickr)

In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a Chicago case that while running from police “is not necessarily indicative of ongoing criminal activity,” officers can legally stop people who flee from them if other circumstances exist. 

In the Chicago case, a man fled from officers who were driving through an area known for heavy narcotics trafficking. The officers caught up to the man, found he had a gun and arrested him.

Last year, Maryland’s Supreme Court reaffirmed that merely running from the police in some cases can provide police with enough reasonable suspicion for officers to temporarily detain someone. 

The Maryland high court ruling came after a Black man in Baltimore challenged his conviction on gun possession charges, despite pleading guilty previously. Lawyers for Tyrie Washington said he was running for fear of police brutality as he jumped over fences and hid in bushes. The court found Washington’s “unprovoked flight” from uniformed officers in marked and unmarked cars in a high-crime area gave police a “reasonable articulable suspicion” to stop him, even though the officer saw no sign of a weapon beforehand. 

Stan Garnett, the former Boulder County district attorney, said “articulable reasonable suspicion” is probably the lowest legal standard in criminal law. 

“It’s a loose standard and it’s a somewhat vague standard,” Garnett said. “It’s intended to permit a certain amount of police intrusion in a situation where they don’t yet have probable cause and cannot make a full arrest. So does that give a police officer the right to pursue a fleeing suspect? Probably in most situations. These issues get litigated a lot because they are so fact-specific. They really depend on what the officer saw at the particular time.”

Garnett said he doesn’t know all the facts in the Richardson shooting so it would be impossible for him to make a determination as to whether the articulable reasonable suspicion was met. 

“But it’s certainly not unusual that a police officer, faced with that kind of situation, would make a decision that they have articulable suspicion that would justify further investigation,” he said. 

Garnett added that it can be difficult to apply sensibilities about racial bias and profiling within the doctrines of the articulable reasonable suspicion doctrine. (Richardson was Black.)

“The doctrine was really not developed with that in mind,” he said. “It was developed to basically prevent indiscriminate random checking on people. Trying to make sure that you leave conscious and unconscious racial bias out of that is very challenging.”

Rathod argues that if the same situation were to play out in Boulder and the teens were white, the police wouldn’t have launched a chase. 

Aurora paid $100,000 in February to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming Gruszeczka and two other officers racially profiled two Black people in Aurora in 2018, according to Sentinel Colorado. The legal action argued Gruszeczka and the other officers violated the people’s Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure when they searched a vehicle the pair were sitting in without justification. 

Sentinel Colorado reports that during the search, a gun was found and one of the two people, Tevon Thomas, was charged in federal court with being a felon in possession of a firearm. However, a judge later ruled the search was illegal. 

The Aurora shooting resembles a 2019 incident in Colorado Springs in which officers shot a 19-year-old Black man in the back, killing him, as he ran from an arrest. In that case, however, police were responding to a 911 call about a robbery and were told that one of the suspects was armed. 

A Colorado Springs police officer questions 19-year-old De’Von Bailey, left, before he was fatally shot by officers. (Screenshot)

The two officers who fatally shot De’Von Bailey said they feared he was reaching for a weapon in his waistband. Police found a gun in Bailey’s shorts while checking the teen for weapons and tending to him after shooting him.

Despite claims police felt their lives were in danger, Bailey’s family argued he posed no imminent threat as he ran toward a neighborhood park and that the shooting was unjustified and excessive. 

Months after the shooting, an El Paso County jury acquitted Bailey’s cousin in the alleged robbery, saying there wasn’t enough evidence to determine a crime occurred. 

A grand jury cleared the officers of any wrongdoing in Bailey’s killing, but Colorado Springs paid Bailey’s family $3 million to settle a federal lawsuit that alleged racial bias in policing, civil rights violations and wrongful death. 

In the wake of the Aurora shooting, police initially said Richardson was armed with a semi-automatic handgun. They didn’t disclose until Friday that Richardson was, in fact, carrying a pellet gun that looked like a real firearm. (Officers didn’t know Richardson was armed when they started chasing him.)

The body camera footage released Friday showed Snapp tackling Richardson, who said, “stop, please, you got me.”

“Gun, gun, let go of the fucking gun,” Gruszeczka says. “I’m going to shoot your ass! Dude, I’m going to shoot you!”

Gruszeczka then shot Richardson.

“I’m sorry. I’m done. Help me. Take me to the hospital. Get it. Get it. I can’t breathe. Help,” Richardson then says. “They made me do it. I didn’t know who they were. They made me do it.”

Jor’Dell Richarson runs from Aurora police officers. (Handout)

Body camera footage doesn’t show what happened in the moments after Snapp tackled Richardson but before the shooting. The pellet gun isn’t visible in the footage until the moment Gruszeczka shoots Richardson. 

It’s not clear whether Richardson was holding the pellet gun when he was shot. In a news conference Friday, Chief Acevedo said the ongoing investigation will try to resolve the “ambiguity” of where Richardson’s gun was at the time of the shooting.  

“We know for a fact that he used it to commit an armed robbery, there’s no ambiguity there,” Acevedo said. “But we’re still looking to thoroughly answer that question.” 

Rathod argues Richardson wasn’t touching the pellet gun before the shooting.

“Jor’Dell is never seen touching a gun,” he said. 


The Aurora Police Department is already under a microscope after a series of controversies, including the August 2019 death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain, who was restrained in a chokehold and given a large dose of ketamine after being stopped by officers who said he looked suspicious. McClain was wearing a ski mask on a warm summer night — family said he wore the mask because he had anemia, which made him cold.

Several officers and paramedics have been charged in McClain’s death. Aurora paid $15 million to settle a lawsuit filed by McClain’s family. 

A Colorado Attorney General’s Office investigation into the Aurora Police Department in 2021 found that the agency consistently violates state and federal law in a pattern of racially biased policing and excessive use of force. The department entered into a consent decree with the attorney general’s office to try to address those issues. 

A mural of Elijah McClain was painted by Thomas “Detour” Evans, in memory, June 8, 2020, in the RiNo neighborhood of Denver. (Philip B. Poston, Sentinel Colorado)

Mari Newman, a Colorado civil rights attorney who represented the families of both McClain and Bailey, said the Aurora Police Department needs to conduct a thorough investigation to determine if officers were warranted in pursuing Richardson. 

“But Aurora has made it clear that they have no intention of doing that,” Newman said. “The acting chief made statements within hours of Aurora police killing Jor’Dell that were simply denying accountability and providing false information.”

The day of the shooting, Aurora police said the teen had a semi-automatic firearm, but Acevedo corrected that during Friday’s news conference  — more than a week after the shooting. 

Acevedo said on a talk radio show Monday morning that he didn’t find out the weapon was a pellet gun until Thursday evening, the night before the news conference where he unveiled body camera footage from the shooting. 

“From the legal standpoint, it really doesn’t change anything in terms of what we have to establish,” Acevedo said on a show hosted by George Brauchler, the former district attorney in the 18th Judicial District. 

The Richardson shooting is being investigated by Arapahoe County’s critical incident response team, a mix of police and Arapahoe County prosecutors. A simultaneous internal investigation is being conducted by the Aurora Police Department.

UPDATE: This story was updated at 10:13 a.m. on Tuesday, June 13, 2023, to reflect that a Friday demonstration in response to Jor’Dell Richarson’s killing has been moved to the Aurora Municipal Building.

The Colorado Sun —

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Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage.

A Colorado College graduate, Jesse worked at The Denver Post from June 2014 until July 2018, when he joined The Sun. He was also an intern at The Gazette in Colorado Springs and The News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware, his hometown.

Jesse has won awards for long form feature writing, public service reporting, sustained coverage and deadline news reporting.

Email: Twitter: @jesseapaul

Olivia Prentzel is a general assignment writer based in Colorado Springs for The Colorado Sun, covering breaking news, wildfires and all things interesting impacting Coloradans. Before joining The Sun, Olivia covered criminal justice for The Colorado Springs Gazette. She’s also worked at newspapers in New Orleans and New Jersey, where she grew up. After graduating college, she lived in a tiny, rural town in southern Madagascar for three years as a Peace Corps volunteer. When not writing, Olivia enjoys backpacking and climbing Colorado’s tallest peaks.