The family of a 14-year-old boy shot and killed by an Aurora police officer last week is demanding the department release video footage of the shooting and the name of the officer who fired the shot, saying they want to understand exactly what occurred in the fatal encounter.
“We need to know what happened to him,” said Jaleesa Smith, the boy’s aunt. “His mother is grieving. He is a 14-year-old child.”
The boy, Jor’Dell Richardson, was killed by an Aurora police officer on Thursday afternoon after he and other teens robbed a convenience store near Eighth Street and Dayton Avenue of vape cartridges, according to the Aurora Police Department’s news release. The news release said at least one teen threatened the store’s clerk with a gun.
The incident began about 4:20 p.m. when an Aurora police gang sergeant, who was on routine patrol, noticed several teenagers wearing medical masks and hooded sweatshirts walking toward the store. The sergeant radioed for additional gang officers to respond to the scene “to investigate the suspicious activity,” the news release said.
As the group left the store, two teens ran and were apprehended without incident while others escaped in a stolen Kia minivan.
Jor’Dell also ran from police, according to the news release. Police said the boy was armed with a gun but details on what transpired between Jor’Dell and the officer are scant.
“During a struggle to take him into custody, one officer fired their weapon,” the news release said.
In a news conference after the shooting, interim Aurora police Chief Art Acevedo said Richardson carried the gun in his waistband. He never pointed it at the clerk during the robbery, he said, but made it clear he had it.
Acevedo said he watched body camera footage recorded by two officers and it was hard to see what happened in the struggle on the ground between Richardson and the police officer. Acevedo said he could hear the officer telling Richardson to drop the gun and then a shot was fired.
“You can see the discharge,” he said. “And I can just see the gun kind of fly and land on the ground.”
At the news conference, Acevedo lectured area youth about the dangers of guns and crime.
“To the young people in this community and across the country, it’s time to wake up,” Acevedo said. “It’s time to wake up and understand this is not a video game. You don’t get to hit reset. You don’t get to hit restart. You don’t get to say no harm, no foul.”
Joe Moylan, an Aurora police spokesman, said Monday that no additional information on the shooting would be provided. The police department is conducting an internal affairs investigation, and the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office is leading a criminal investigation into the shooting.
“We want to get some type of understanding”
The scarcity of information about what occurred between the robbery and the police shooting is what led Jor’Dell’s parents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends to go to the Aurora Police Department’s District One station on Monday morning to ask for body camera footage, area surveillance videos and the officer’s name. They were accompanied by members of the Denver-Aurora Community Action Committee, a group that pushes for equality and justice.
Laurie Littlejohn, Jor’Dell’s mother, said they have heard from various sources that her son was shot in the back while already on the ground. But they have not seen any video footage or heard that account directly from police.
“We want to get some type of understanding of why they had to use lethal force against my 14-year-old kid,” Littlejohn said.
Before Thursday’s shooting, Jor’Dell had never been in trouble with police, she said.
“The police had never called about my son,” Littlejohn said. “They never called me to come pick him up. He’d never been in handcuffs.”
Jor’Dell had just finished eighth grade at Aurora West Preparatory Academy and was planning to attend Aurora Central High School in the fall. The boy was funny and silly and he enjoyed sports and dancing, the family said.
“He was a real character, I’ll tell you that,” his father, Jameco Richardson, said. “He’d go out of his way to make the next person smile.”
The family had just returned home on May 31 from a trip to visit relatives in Texas. They rented an 18-passenger van for the trip and on the drive home Jor’Dell filmed a tornado from the back seat, Smith said.
Earlier in the week he had amused his family by taking pictures and putting goofy filters on their faces so that everyone had big eyes and mouths, Littlejohn said.
“Everybody in the house was cracking up,” she said.
Now, they’re hosting a GoFundMe campaign to pay for his funeral.
Littlejohn said she worked the day her son was shot and wondered why he wasn’t responding to phone calls and text messages later in the evening after she got home. Police knocked on her door around 8 p.m. to tell her that Jor’Dell had been killed.
“They never said any full details,” she said.
“This is not the kid we know”
At the police station on Monday, Aurora police Cmdr. Robert Jackson met with the family in a vestibule but he declined to provide them additional information. Jackson said he was bound by department policy not to release any information — including the officer’s name — while the investigation is underway.
The officer who fired the shot is on paid administrative leave, per department policy.
“Why in hell is he still getting paid while my son is dead?” Richardson asked.
Jackson referred the family to the police department’s records division, where they could file an open records request for the video footage. Under Colorado law, the department must release the footage within 21 days.
Later, Jackson told The Denver Post he understood why the family was upset but that he was bound by his department’s policies.
“I sympathize with them,” Jackson said. “A kid’s been killed. I get it. But there is a process that has to be followed.”
The exchange between Jackson and the family was heated at times, with some family and friends raising their voices in anger and frustration. After about 20 minutes, the family left and vowed to return to ask for the video footage.
“This is not the kid we know,” said Lawrence Miles, who identified himself as an uncle. “We’ve never seen him with a gun. He was a baby.”
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