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Aurora PD releases body cam footage of police killing of Jor’Dell Richardson, family responds with march

By Jonce Palmer

Laurie Littlejohn, along with family members and supporters, marches for account

Aurora, CO – On June 9, the bodycam footage documenting the police killing of Black youth Jor’Dell Richardson, 14, was released during a press conference given by Aurora Police Department Interim Chief Art Acevedo. The family and community organizers responded in kind with a press conference of their own, to counter the police narrative and march for accountability.

APD stalls for time, withholds vital information till the last minute

At 3 p.m. that day, Interim Chief Acevedo released the bodycam footage in a long, drawn-out press conference at the Aurora Police Department (APD) Headquarters. The press conference was given in English and subsequently in Spanish in the name of “accessibility,” as opposed to being interpreted in real time. After 45 minutes, the footage was eventually shown. Two body cam recordings were released, along with the names of the officers who killed Jor’Dell.

Those two officers are Roch Gruszeczka, who shot Jor’Dell Richardson in the abdomen, and James Snapp, who tackled the 14-year-old boy to the ground. Both officers were members of APD’s Gang Intervention Unit and worked in APD’s Precinct 1, the same precinct where the three officers who killed Elijah McClain in 2019 worked.

Crucial information was withheld from the family and the public until mere minutes before the APD press conference began. Earlier in the week, APD claimed that the officers saw a gun in Jor’Dell’s waistband, which may have been used by APD to justify the shooting. But now APD says the “gun” Jor’Dell had was a pellet gun, a toy. This new information now draws a grim connection to police killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014 in Ohio.

Bodycam footage, names of officers released to the family and the public

Jor’Dell Da’Shawn Richardson was 14 years old when he was killed by police in the alleyway behind a vape shop on the corner of 8th Avenue and Dayton Street in Aurora. He and a few other Black teen boys were seen outside the vape shop in hoodies and COVID masks. As the two officers pulled up to the vape shop, Officer Gruszeczka can be heard saying in the recording, “They just shoplifted out of there. I’m going to light them up.”

Jor’Dell was chased down by Gruszeczka and Snapp on suspicion of having robbed the store and waseventually tackled to the ground. Jor’Dell said, “Stop, please! You got me, you got me!” While Jor’Dell was subdued on the ground, the officers started yelling that there was a gun. At least one of Jor’Dell’s hands was pinned to the ground. Then Gruszeczka shot Jor’Dell once in the abdomen, yelling obscenities like “I’m gonna shoot your ass!”

When APD officers contacted Jor’Dell’s mother Laurie Littlejohn to inform her of her son’s death, she was told that he didn’t feel any pain. Chief Acevedo confirmed during his press conference that he himself said that to the family on Tuesday at an Aurora Key Community Response Team meeting. However, the footage shows Jor’Dell screaming upon being shot. He was begging for help and to be taken to a hospital. Within two minutes of being shot, Jor’Dell was unresponsive.

Between claiming that he died painlessly to withholding the fact that the so-called “weapon” was actually a pellet gun, Chief Acevedo is clearly unable to keep the officers’ story straight.

Both body cam recordings can be found on YouTube.

Family, youth, community members set the record straight, march for accountability

After waiting about an hour and a half for APD’s press conference to finish up, the family responded to the police press conference with one of their own, attended by about 250 people. Among the attendees and speakers were Colorado state legislators, Aurora city councilers, youth and mentors, faith leaders, community organizations, and the people of Aurora. The atmosphere was heavy with emotion as community leaders and politicians spoke about the criminalization of young Black men and boys by police, the pattern of violence exhibited by Aurora PD, and the need for unity within the various communities of Aurora to stand behind the family on their “long road” towards accountability.

“He was the light of our house. And for a week now, our light has dimmed low,” Laurie Littlejohn said, adding, “My life is forever ruined.” She expressed fear for her 19-year-old son – that he, too, could be racially profiled by police, and shared anxiety about him leaving the house. “My son did not deserve this. Right is right and wrong is wrong and I’m a firm believer of that, so accountability needs to be done.”

Jameco Richardson, Jor’Dell’s father, stepped up to the microphone next. He described his son as a fun, silly kid who enjoyed brightening people’s days with dancing and humor. “This is so wrong,” he said, “and nothing they can do can bring him back, as they get to go home and sleep good at night.” Jameco expressed his frustration with the false police narrative painting his son as a criminal, and criticized Chief Acevedo for displaying hollow sympathy. “He had the [gall] to tell my son’s mother that he didn’t suffer. You’re not him. Our son died in a dirty alley, scared, no one there to stop you from doing what you were doing. How dare you?” Jameco ended his remarks affirming that “the truth will come out” and called for Chief Acevedo to be removed from office.

After wiping away tears, members of the family and their supporters took to the streets demanding accountability for the death Jor’Dell Richardson. The crowd, still over 100 strong, included students and teachers from Aurora West Preparatory School where Jor’Dell attended. Demonstrators marched from the Aurora Municipal Building, around the Aurora Central Library and APD Headquarters, and back where they started. Protesters chanted, “Black lives matter!” “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “Say his name: Jor’Dell Richardson!”

Through organizing with groups like Denver-Aurora Community Action Committee in the immediate aftermath of the shooting – by going to APD Precinct 1 to demand the footage on Monday, to confronting the police chief at the Aurora Key Community Response Team meeting on Tuesday – the family has been able to gain the bodycam footage, the names of the officers who killed their child, and has been able to reach their fundraising goal in a week’s time. The legal deadline for Colorado police to release body cam footage of a police shooting is 21 days.

More footage from private businesses and homes needs to be released in order to establish a full picture of what happened and determine what accountability for APD looks like. This police killing of a young Black teen is yet another in a long list of reasons why community control of the Aurora Police Department must be won and a Civilian Police Accountability Council must be created. As Laurie Littlejohn remarked during the press conference, “We have a long road ahead of us.”

The Richardson Family is asking for donations for the costs of Jor’Dell’s funeral. You can donate and send messages of support and solidarity to

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