Boulder Sheriff’s deputies fired after handcuffed man dies in transport van

BOULDER, Colo. — Two Boulder County sheriff’s deputies had their employment “concluded” Monday, according to the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, following an internal investigation of the death of a man in a transport van.

The two deputies are facing felony charges for the death of a 23-year-old man they were transporting in a sheriff’s van in September of last year.

Deputies James O’Brien, 49, and Adam Lunn, 36, were taking Demetrius Shankling to a detox center on Sept. 9 after he had gone out for the night to celebrate his birthday. Shankling was found unresponsive and not breathing when they arrived at the Addiction Recovery Center.

He was placed on life support but died 27 days later at a Denver hospital.

Investigators said the deputies contributed to Shankling’s death by handcuffing him and putting him a confined space in the van on his stomach. This is a violation of the procedures for the safe transportation of prisoners.

An autopsy revealed Shankling died from positional asphyxia based on how he was positioned in the van. A forensic pathologist determined the manner of death to be homicide.

Sheriff Joe Pelle says the deputies have been trained not to handcuff someone and put them in that position.

Aside from announcing the departure of the two deputies, the Sheriff’s office told FOX31 that they could not provide additional information, as it involves personnel matters.

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