Family and community demand justice for Jor’Dell Richardson
Aurora, CO – On September 27 community members and activists gathered to support the family of Jor’Dell Richardson, who was murdered by police. The crowd demanded accountability for his killing at a meeting with officials of the city of Aurora and Arapahoe County.
As the trial for two of the Aurora Police Department officers responsible for the 2019 killing Elijah McClain continues, unrest in Aurora over the killing of Jor’Dell Richardson has resurfaced.
On Thursday, June 1, at around 4:20 p.m., 14-year-old Black teenager Jor’Dell Richardson was shot in the stomach by Aurora police officer Roch Gruzseczka. He was shot on the ground when he was already subdued by Gruzseczka and officer James Snapp.
A rare opportunity to confront District Attorney John Kellner in a public forum became even more crucial for the family and activists when his office ruled Richardson’s killing justified and no criminal charges against the two officers.
A coalition of groups led by the Denver-Aurora Community Action Committee (DCAC) prepared a protest at the so-called Justice System Racial Equity Event put on by the Arapahoe County government. The coalition included Stand up for Racial Justice, Students for a Democratic Society, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and Freedom Road Socialist Organization.
When it became clear to the Aurora Police Department (APD) that they would have more detractors than supporters at this event, they pressured the owner of the original venue to change location, claiming that DACAC had “called for violence on social media.” A spokesperson for the county later claimed that the change in venue was for the purpose of having more space to accommodate more people.
After a brief set of chants of “Black lives matter!” “Forever 14!” and “Say his name: Jor’Dell Richardson!” the crowd of about 100 people marched into the meeting chanting Jor’Dell’s name. Multiple members of the community, including members of Jor’Dell’s family, made their demands clear: Fire and indict Roch Gruszeczka and James Snapp and fire Interim Chief Art Acevedo.
Facilitators of the community conversation asked the crowd to provide solutions to the racial bias in policing in Arapahoe County. The community supporting the Richardson family made it crystal clear that the first step needed to be taken towards a solution to these issues was accountability from APD, its officers, and from District Attorney Kellner. After citing the need for leadership accountable to the people, a few activists brought up the demand for community control of the police.
Jonce Palmer, chair of Denver-Aurora Community Action Committee, called out Chief Acevedo for their proven track record of racist, corrupt policing in other major cities like Miami and Houston, citing the execution of a no-knock warrant in 2019 that killed two innocent Black people and keeping revenge porn of another officer as a beat cop. Acevedo is also a regular guest on Alex Jones’ reactionary conspiracy show InfoWars.
Palmer went on to say, “The first step in this process is clearly accountability, but the second step is democracy, is giving people a vote in how they are policed.”
Several young people who went to Richardson’s school addressed the interim chief directly about how his killing impacted them and questioned the intentions of the two APD officers who killed him. One teen told Acevedo “Y’all gave him CPR for a gunshot wound. And even us children know that first you should put pressure on the wound. He was still breathing, talking perfectly fine. Why did they give him CPR? They had no intention of helping him; their only intention was to kill him.”
One organizer with the PSL, Nate Kassa, asked Acevedo if he would resign. When he said no, the protesters marched out, chanting “If we don’t get it, shut it down!” There was nothing else to discuss when it became clear that the demands of the family would not be met at this meeting.
Groups like Denver-Aurora Community Action Committee are going to continue organizing in close connection with the Richardson family and building their coalition to bring about accountability from racist police in Jor’Dell Richardson’s killing.