AURORA, Colo. — A man who was seriously wounded after his abdomen was punctured by a "less lethal" round fired by an Aurora police (APD) officer in June 2021 filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the department for excessive force.
Shawn Meredith is suing the City of Aurora and three officers. He was wounded after officers responded to the InTown Suites at 14090 E. Evans Ave. on June 28, 2021, after a report of a physical domestic violence incident between a man and woman.
The 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office reviewed the case and concluded in November 2021 that the officers were justified in their use of force and would not be charged.
According to the DA's letter, Officers Matthew Crewse, Steven Evans and Steven Gerdjikian responded to the scene and spoke with the victim in the lobby. She had scratches on her forehead and cheeks, as well as scrapes on her back, the letter says. She told officers that Meredith was armed with what she called “bang sticks” and might fight with them.
According to the lawsuit, the officers went to Meredith's room but he refused to come out. Eventually, the officers asked the hotel manager to unlock the room, but that didn't work and the manager forced his way inside while the officers watched, the lawsuit says.
When the door flew open, Meredith was seen armed with a metal object in each hand. According to the lawsuit, Meredith initially refused to drop them but complied with orders about a minute after the door flew open.
At one point, Meredith moved toward the doorway and was shot at close range with a Taser by Samuels, the lawsuit says. Almost immediately after, Gerdjikian shot him with his shotgun, using less-lethal rounds, from about 4 feet away.
Afterward, the lawsuit says, Meredith pointed to a small pocketknife that was clipped to a pocket and told officers to "take it." Moments later, the lawsuit says, Gerdjikian shot Meredith a second time with another "less-lethal" shotgun round.
According to the DA's letter, Meredith resisted being handcuffed and there was a struggle, and during that struggle, Meredith began "having trouble speaking and stopped moving."
Meredith was taken to a hospital where it was discovered that a beanbag round had penetrated his abdominal cavity, causing serious injuries, according to the DA's letter.
APD uses ammunition from Combined Tactical Systems known as 12-gauge Super-Shock Bean Bags. The specification sheet lists an effective range of 75 feet but does not list a minimum distance, according to the DA's letter.
However, in this incident, the ammunition in the shotgun was determined to be a Safariland Defense Technology 12-gauge Drag Stabilized Round, which is filled with metal and is typically designed to be shot from a distance of 20 feet, the DA's letter says.
The letter acknowledges that Gerdjikian was closer than that when he fired at Meredith but noted he could not move farther away due to the confined hallway.
The letter goes on to say that it's "beyond the scope" of the review to determine how those rounds ended up in the shotgun. The DA's letter says that Gerdjikian had initially drawn his handgun but then requested that another officer retrieve the less-lethal shotgun from a sergeant's vehicle.
Ultimately the district attorney found that the officers were justified because they used nonviolent means for a significant period of time before resorting to the use of physical force. The district attorney said that Meredith's actions "compelled" the officers to use physical force.
Meredith's attorneys, however, argued that officers violated his rights by entering his room without a warrant and firing at him from only a few feet away. The lawsuit also says that shooting someone with a weapon without knowing the type of munition loaded in it "creates an extreme and unacceptable degree of risk."
Meredith is seeking a judgment for economic damages including costs for medical care and lost wages. He's also seeking compensation for pain and suffering.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.
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