Boulder deputies guilty of manslaughter in detox van death

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This combination of photos released by the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office shows former sheriff’s deputies Adam Lunn, left, and James O’Brien. On Friday, Aug. 27, 2021, jurors began deliberating in the trial of the two former Colorado sheriff deputies accused of causing the death of Demetrius Shankling, 23, in 2018, by placing him on his stomach and squeezing him into a van to take him to a detox center. (Boulder County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File)

BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — A Boulder County jury found two former sheriff deputies guilty of manslaughter in the death of a 23-year-old man they were transporting to a detox center.

James O’Brien and Adam Lunn, now former deputies, stand convicted in the death of 23-year-old Demetrius Shankling.

“The guilty verdicts reflect what members of law enforcement, including Sheriff Joe Pelle, immediately recognized about the actions of these two individuals on September 9, 2018: They are fully responsible for the death of Demetrius,” 20th Judicial District Attorney Michael Dougherty said in a press release on Friday, after the jury reached its verdict.

Sentencing is set for Nov. 4. The deputies could face 2-6 years in prison.

On Sept. 9, 2018, O’Brien and Lunn picked up Shankling at Ninth Street and Canyon Boulevard in Boulder. They found him unresponsive and not breathing when they arrived at the detox center.

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

“This jury verdict is justice. But for the acts of defendant James O’Brien and defendant Adam Lunn, Demetrius Shankling would be alive today. Instead, because of them, the 23rd birthday he celebrated that night was his last,” Dougherty said.

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.

Investigators determined the deputies killed Shankling by handcuffing him and putting him in a confined space of the transport van on his stomach.

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