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Aurora clears officers in 14-year-old Jor’Dell Richardson’s killing; family prepares for lawsuit

Aurora police internal affairs investigators on Tuesday cleared three officers involved in the June 1 deadly shooting of 14-year-old Jor’dell Richardson, including the officer who shot him. Now attorneys representing Jor’Dell’s family are preparing to sue the department.

One officer, Sgt. Stephenson Cary, was found to have not turned on his body-worn camera and Officer James Snapp violated the department’s policy of “conduct unbecoming an officer,” but Officer Roch Gruszeczka was cleared of use of deadly force, failure to identify himself as a police officer and conformance to law policies, the department said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

The 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office told CBS News Colorado last month that there will be no criminal charges for the officers.

“The tragic death of Jor’Dell Richardson has understandably evoked strong emotions from his family and community members. While some will vehemently disagree with our findings, it is important for the community to know that the department left no stone unturned to establish the facts in this case,” Aurora Police Chief Art Acevedo said in a statement.

Jor’Dell was accused of robbing vapes from a store with what turned out to be a BB gun, police said. Nearby security camera and bodycam footage show two officers chasing Jor’Dell through an alley near East 8th Avenue and North Dayton Street before tackling him to the ground. A brief scuffle ensues and seconds later, Gruszeczka shoots Jor’Dell. Acevedo shared photos of the BB gun in question, saying it resembled a real gun.

“It’s not a surprise. This is part and parcel for Aurora,” Siddartha Rathod, an attorney representing Jor’Dell’s family, told CBS News Colorado on Tuesday. “Aurora cleared the officers who are currently on trial for murder in the Elijah McClain case.”

Rathod’s firm — Rathod | Mohamedbhai LLC — represented the family of McClain in their civil lawsuit, as well as the families of Naeschylus Carter-Vinzant and Richard “Gary” Black. Those three cases have yielded nearly $20 million paid by the department in settlements, Rathod said.

Rathod went on to say the investigation was never fair or impartial, with Acevedo making a determination on the case before an investigation was complete.

“Aurora’s chief of police exonerated these officers on Day 1 and said ‘Jor’Dell had a gun.’ He misled the public on that. He held a press conference and said his officers did nothing wrong,” Rathod said. “How can you be an [internal affairs] investigator and find anything different than what your chief already said publicly?”

An Aurora police spokesman said they “vehemently” disagree with that assessment.

“I stand by my statements, our investigative process, and the findings of our internal investigation and do not intend on engaging in a public debate with Mr. Rathod or anyone else. Mr. Rathod is well-versed on the legal process and if he disputes our findings, or that of the independent criminal investigation completed by the 18th Judicial District Critical Incident Response Team, he is well-versed on the judicial process and is welcome to seek a resolution in a court of law,” Acevedo said in a statement to CBS News Colorado Tuesday evening.

Rathod said his office is now preparing for a wrongful death lawsuit against the officers and the department. He said he’s also still trying to get records related to the investigation, including the entirety of bodycam footage and records related to the investigation into the BB gun, and who in the department knew what and when.

“We want all the bodycam footage,” he said. “We want all the details about the replica toy gun and Aurora won’t release them. Why? They get to pick and choose what they release and when they release it and doesn’t the public deserve it?”

Aurora police said it tried to get those records to Rathod’s office but stopped hearing back. Rathod said the department attempted to charge over $10,000 for the release of those records.

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