The weapon 14-year-old Jor’Dell Richardson had on him when an Aurora police officer fatally shot him in the abdomen last week was a pellet gun, similar in appearance to an HK USP nine-millimeter semi-automatic pistol, the city’s interim police chief announced Friday.
Body-worn camera footage released Friday captured Richardson shouting, “Stop! You got me!” at the same time that Officer Roch Gruszecza yelled for him to “let go of the gun.”
Less than a second later, Richardson was shot as he lay on the ground.
The officer’s partner had just tackled Richardson as he tried to run away from a convenience store after he and a group of kids had allegedly just robbed near East 8th Avenue and Dayton Street.
The shooting happened June 1 after a sergeant noticed a group of kids wearing hoodies and medical masks and asked for backup, police said.
Interim Chief Art Acevedo showed still images of the group in the convenience store.
“That is not a toy,” Acevedo said. “What’s the purpose of these replicas? What legitimate role do they play? And we have a 14-year-old kid dead.”
Acevedo said the group threatened the store clerk and made off with vape cartridges.
Siddhartha Rathod, an attorney for Richardson’s family, said Acevedo called him right before a Friday afternoon news conference to tell the family for the first time Richardson had a pellet gun. Rathod criticized Acevedo in a rally after the police news conference, accusing the police chief of lying about Richardson having a gun in his statements about the incident before Friday.
Rathod said based on his experience as a captain in the Marine Corps, a police officer should immediately know the difference between a toy gun and a real one when they pick it up because of the differences in appearance and weight, and the fact that a replica gun would have no ammunition to clear out, as the officers are trained to do as soon as they pick up a gun from a scene.
Gruszecza, the officer, fired the single shot, Acevedo said. Gruszecza has worked for the Aurora Police Department since 2017 and been a part of the Gang Intervention Unit since 2019.
The police department released body-worn camera footage Friday afternoon from Gruszecza and his patrol partner.
Richardson’s family and their lawyers saw the footage on Tuesday. State law requires 72 hours between family seeing video or audio footage of someone killed by police and the agency releasing the footage to the public.
The footage captured the Gruszecza yelling for Richardson to get on the ground during the brief chase, saying, “I’m going to Tase you!” After his partner tackles Richardson and Richardson shouts to surrender, Gruszecza shouts, “Gun, gun, let go of the (expletive) gun! … Dude, I’m going to shoot you!”
His gunshot comes less than half a second later, according to the police department’s transcription of the footage.
Acevedo repeatedly emphasized the brief chase and shooting unfolded in a matter of seconds. Acevedo declined to answer when asked where Richardson’s hands appeared to be at the moment he said, “You got me!” But he said the officers didn’t have the benefit of rewinding and slowing down the video footage, as is possible after the fact.
Rathod pushed back on police’s narrative that Richardson could have posed a threat to the officers after he was taken to the ground, saying he doesn’t believe it makes sense that Richardson would have reached for a replica gun during the brief struggle.
“It doesn’t make any sense that he would reach for a toy,” he said.
Gruszecza’s body-worn camera footage captures him saying, “Hang with me, bud!” as he calls for medical aid. He asks Richardson a few questions, such as his name and birthday.
After the shot, Richardson says, “I’m sorry. I’m done. Help me. Take me to the hospital. … I can’t breathe,” and a second later, “They made me do it. I didn’t know who they were. They made me do it.”
By 4:26 p.m., Richardson is unresponsive, according to the officer’s statements in the footage. As Gruszecza walks away from the scene, he says several times, “God, please be with that kid.”
The 18th Judicial District Critical Incident Response Team is conducting the criminal investigation into the shooting, and the police department has also started its internal affairs probe. Gruszecza has been placed on paid administrative leave.
Richardson’s family and hundreds of people gathered for a rally outside Aurora’s city hall on Friday afternoon. Rathod said the family can’t get true justice now because justice would mean Richardson going home to his family.
“He was the light of our house,” said Richardson’s mother, Laurie Littlejohn. “For over a week now, that light has dimmed.”
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