DENVER (KDVR) — The 14-year-old killed by police last week in Aurora had a pellet gun, the police chief revealed on Friday.
Jor’Dell Richardson’s family and dozens of supporters were already waiting outside the Aurora Municipal Center when the information was made public. Art Acevedo, Aurora’s interim police chief, said the teen had a pellet-gun replica of a 9mm pistol when he and a group of teens stole from a nearby store and ran from police.
Yet between the time of the incident and Friday’s news conference, police characterized the theft as an armed robbery, claiming the teen had a semiautomatic pistol. Family attorney Siddhartha Rathod said the family was unaware the teen did not have a real firearm until Friday afternoon.
Jor’Dell’s mother, Laurie Littlejohn, said her “life is forever ruined.”
“He was the light of our house. And for a week now, our light has dimmed low,” she said. Littlejohn said she’s now fearful for the life of her 19-year-old son.
Rathod, with the firm Rathod Mohamedbhai, also addressed the crowd, saying police have misled the public about what happened.
“No where in that video do you see Jor’Dell threatening those cops. But what do you hear? What do you see? Jor’Dell surrenders prior to being shot. Surrenders,” Rathod said. “‘You got me. You got me.’ And then they shoot him,” he said, quoting the boy’s words when police caught up with him.
“They continue to misrepresent the truth to you, the public, and we have to demand more from our leaders,” Rathod said.
Protesters on Friday afternoon held up fists while shouting words attributed to Black activist Assata Shakur: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom! It is our duty to win! We must love each other and support each other! We have nothing to lose but our chains!”
State Rep. Elisabeth Epps, a community organizer who advocates for police abolition, was among several others who addressed the crowd.
“You cannot train your way out of police brutality,” Epps said to applause from the crowd.
Teen had replica pellet gun, chief says
Acevedo addressed the media on Friday afternoon, stressing that he’s aiming for transparency as he shared information and video in the case. Body camera images and video showed a gun next to the teen’s body as he lay dying from a single gunshot wound.
Acevedo said police ultimately determined the gun, which looked similar to an HK USP 9mm pistol, was a replica pellet gun. The chief displayed comparison photos that show a real version of the pistol next to its replica version.
Police had said Jor’Dell was among a group of teens in hoodies and surgical masks who were suspected of stealing from a convenience store to get vape cartridges. A sergeant with the department’s gang unit had spotted the teens near the store and deemed them suspicious.
Police had accused the teens of threatening the store clerk with a gun. Acevedo said Friday that Jor’Dell lifted his shirt and showed the clerk the gun in his waistband.
Calls for peaceful protest in Aurora
When news spread that the teen was carrying a pellet gun, organizers were encouraging people to show up there for peaceful protest. People rallied with signs like, “Justice for Jor’Dell,” and others with images of the boy. Children were present.
Acevedo showed the video to the family earlier this week. Police have said Colorado law requires police to wait 72 hours to publicly release body camera video after providing it to the family in the case.
Police had accused the teen, who would have started high school this fall, of having a semiautomatic pistol during an armed robbery when he was shot on June 1. But they had not released further information until Friday.