AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — A man wounded by so-called “less-lethal” shotgun rounds that he claims caused lasting damage has filed a lawsuit against the Aurora Police Department.
Lawyers filed the complaint on behalf of Shawn Meredith in the June 28, 2021, incident. The lawsuit claims officers conducted a warrantless arrest and said Meredith “suffered severe injuries as a result” of their actions, which caused long-term effects on his health.
The lawsuit was filed by Daniel D. Williams of Hutchinson, Black and Cook, LLC, and Darren O’Connor of Darren O’Connor, LLC. The attorneys obtained body camera video of the incident and also posted an edited version showing parts of the encounter.
The incident began with a domestic violence call at a hotel, according to a 2021 report from the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which cleared the involved officers of criminal charges.
An Aurora Police sergeant and two officers responded around 6 p.m. to the call at InTown Suites, on East Evans Avenue. There, they found Meredith’s girlfriend, who they described as having “scratches on her forehead and cheeks as well as scrapes on her back,” the report said. She warned the officers that Meredith had “bang sticks” on him.
According to the report, police were trying to arrest Meredith on third-degree assault, but he refused to come out of the room. The report said he had a baton in each hand and a knife clipped to his pants pocket.
Police ultimately used a Taser on him and fired multiple rounds of the less-lethal ammunition. A round ended up in Meredith’s abdominal cavity and required surgery to remove it.
Less-lethal ammo used ‘at close range,’ lawyers claim
Meredith suffered life-threatening injuries because of “a wrongful use of the munitions,” his lawyers claim in the complaint.
Meredith and his lawyers claim he “was holding no weapon” when an officer used a Taser on him “at close range,” and another fired the less-lethal shotgun rounds “from only about four feet away.”
The lawsuit claims that a Taser was used on Meredith a second time for no reason other than to inflict pain. It also claims Meredith told the officers to take his knife before he was told not to reach for it, and then he was shot with another less-lethal round.
The ammunition in the less-lethal shotgun was not the standard department-issued ammunition, according to the DA’s report. The lawsuit claims that “munition (is) referred to as a ‘bean bag’ round, but it is filled with #9 metal shot, not anything soft like what is found in a bean bag.”
“The munition was designed to be used at a minimum range of 20 feet to avoid causing death or serious injury. The munition was designed to be aimed at the buttocks or thighs to minimize serious or life-threatening injuries,” the lawsuit claims.
After Meredith recovered from the surgery to remove the round from his stomach, he was released to “home care,” the lawsuit said. At the time, that left Meredith on the streets, as he did not have a home.
The lawsuit cites several cases of excessive force by Aurora Police as part of Meredith’s claim and cites a violation of constitutional rights, along with excessive force in an illegal seizure without a warrant.
The suit is aiming to collect for medical expenses, lost wages, compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and more.
DA’s report details incident, clears officers
The DA’s office details the incident in its 2021 report, which determined whether the officer’s use of the less-lethal shotgun rounds “was a reasonable use of force.”
After Aurora officers responded to the domestic violence call, they decided there was probable cause to arrest Meredith on third-degree assault and tried to contact him in his hotel room, the DA’s report said.
When he did not open the door, the officers said they announced themselves as police and asked Meredith to open the door. They told him he was under arrest for domestic violence and assault, but Meredith responded, “I will not go to jail,” according to the report.
The officers tried to enter the room using Meredith’s girlfriend’s key, but they could not get in. The manager went to the room, used his master key to unlock the door and forcibly opened the door, the report said.
Police moved the manager out of the way and saw Meredith standing in the middle of the room. Officers told Meredith to remove his hands from his pockets, and when he did, he had a baton in each hand, which he then extended after pulling them out of his pockets, the DA’s report said.
“The officers called for Mr. Meredith to drop the batons at least 12 times. Mr. Meredith finally put down the batons but still refused to come out of the room,” the report said.
Meredith threatened to further “arm” himself as he continued to refuse to come out of the room. At that point, Officer Steven Gerdjikian was handed a less-lethal shotgun, which has a bright orange marking to note it is not loaded with lethal ammunition, the report said.
After further commands to Meredith to exit the room, the report said he “placed his left hand on top of the refrigerator by the door. This concerned the officers, as they could not see if there was a possible weapon there. The officers could, however, see that Mr. Meredith had a knife clipped to his left front pants pocket.”
Gerdjikian then loaded the less-lethal round into the shotgun and pointed it at Meredith, who said he didn’t care about being shot, the report said. Officers continued to try and get Meredith to come out of the room when he told them he was considering his “options,” the report said.
“After more arguing with the officers, and continually moving his right hand near the knife
despite orders to the contrary, Mr. Meredith took a quick step toward Sergeant Samuels. The
sergeant, who was holding a Taser, fired it at Mr. Meredith’s torso,” the report said.
The charge did not affect Meredith, who then refused to get to the ground despite several commands from Gerdjikian and Sgt. Brandon Samuels. Gerdjikian fired one round at Meredith’s abdomen, which did not seem to have an effect, the report said.
“Despite additional repeated commands for Mr. Meredith to get on the ground and not move his hand toward the knife, Mr. Meredith remained standing and moved his right hand as if he was going to reach for the knife,” the report said.
Another less-lethal shotgun round was fired at Meredith’s abdomen, which seemingly did not phase him, and Officer Steven Evans removed a knife from Meredith’s pocket. Evans and Samuels brought Meredith out of the doorway and to the ground, the report said.
The report said Meredith resisted being handcuffed and tucked his hands underneath him. A Taser was deployed directly onto Meredith’s back, and the report said another knife was found in Meredith’s front pocket. The report said Meredith told officers to “Take it, take it, I said several times take it. I didn’t reach for —-, I said take it, I put my hand out.”
While officers were handcuffing Meredith, he stopped responding, and that’s when they began life-saving measures. Meredith was taken to the hospital, where doctors found the less-lethal round had entered his abdominal cavity, which required surgery to remove.
The DA’s conclusion on the incident was that “Sergeant Samuels was justified in deploying his Taser. Officer Gerdjikian was justified in firing the less-lethal shotgun. Neither officer committed any crime. No charges will be filed against them.”