2 former Boulder deputies sentenced on manslaughter convictions

Local News

BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — Two former Boulder County deputies were sentenced Thursday after being convicted of manslaughter. The deputies’ reckless disregard caused the death of a 23-year-old man in 2018, the jury found.

Both former deputies expressed remorse for what they did, acknowledging nothing they say or do will ever bring Demetrius Shankling back. 

In September of 2018, Shankling was celebrating his birthday when veteran deputies James O’Brien and Adam Lunn attempted to take him to a detox center. In doing so, Shankling was handcuffed and pushed into a compartment of a van too short for his body. The door was forced closed on him in the confined area leading to pressure on his torso and bending of his neck preventing air flow. Shankling’s grandma spoke before sentencing on Thursday.

“His laugh was huge and infectious,” she told the court. “Everything he did, he did in a big way. He was the smartest person I knew.”

The deputies attempted to revive Shankling, but he would linger in a hospital before eventually dying.

“His death destroyed any dream that I have of watching him walk down the aisle to meet his bride,” his grandma said, “[and] to be able to hold his babies and be able to share in his success and in his dreams. There is a massive hole in my heart that will never be filled by anyone or anything.”

Both former deputies expressed sorrow and sympathy for the the victim’s family before learning their fate.

“I think about it every day … what we’ve could’ve done differently,” O’Brien said. 

His codefendant expressed similar thoughts.

“My involvement that night was something that will impact [Shankling’s family] forever,” Lunn said. 

O’Brien, the most senior of the two deputies, was sentenced to six years in prison for his role as the prosecution had requested. Lunn, who played less of a role, was sentenced to three years— one less than what the DA requested.

“Members of law enforcement who watch this video [of the incident] recognize that what these two did was wrong … that it was unacceptable and it was outrageous,” Boulder County DA Michael Dougherty said. 

Loved ones of the victim and the two former deputies packed the courtroom. The defendants’ loved ones declined, through a defense attorney, to talk on camera after the hearing.

Boulder County deputies took their former colleagues into custody after the hearing.

Both men will face three years of parole after they are released from prison.

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