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Jefferson County District Attorney Pete Weir announced today that the Arapahoe County Grand Jury has returned No True Bills on all counts in the shooting death of 37-year-old Naeschylus Carter Vinzant by Aurora Police Officer Paul Jerothe in March, 2015. While the grand jury did not indict Jerothe, they did issue a report.On March 6, 2015 Officer Jerothe was assigned to the Aurora Police Department’s Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. The SWAT team was one of several specialized tactical law enforcement teams in Aurora that were looking for Mr. Vinzant to arrest him on a warrant for a parole violation. The SWAT team, Direct Action Response Team (DART), and Fugitive Apprehension and Surveillance Team (FAST) were all looking for Mr. Vinzant who was on parole escape status and was a suspect in another investigation. Information regarding Mr. Vinzant’s criminal history and violent acts was shared with the members of these groups. SWAT officers encountered Mr. Vinzant walking east on 12th Ave. near Laredo Street in Aurora. The APD SWAT vehicle stopped in front of Mr. Vinzant. As an APD officer exited the SWAT vehicle from the front passenger side, Mr. Vinzant turned to run in the opposite direction. The DART vehicle had pulled in behind Mr. Vinzant and when Mr. Vinzant saw the DART vehicle he twisted around. As Mr. Vinzant twisted around he turned back towards Officer Jerothe who was standing at the rear of the SWAT vehicle. Based upon the actions of Mr. Vinzant and information Officer Jerothe knew about Mr. Vinzant, Officer Jerothe believed that Mr. Vinzant was about to pull a gun out of his pocket and engage in a gunfight with police. Officer Jerothe fired one shot which hit Mr. Vinzant in the chest. After the shooting, it was determined that Mr. Vinzant was unarmed. Mr. Vinzant was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead from his injury.District Attorney George Brauchler of the 18th Judicial District contacted District Attorney Pete Weir of the First Judicial District on March 6, 2015 regarding an officer-involved shooting in Aurora where there was a possible conflict of interest. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Weir and his office were appointed as a special prosecutor to investigate the shooting.Initially this case was investigated by the Aurora Police Department and ultimately, on March 19, 2015 the results of the Aurora Police Department’s investigation were presented to Mr. Weir. At that time, the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office initiated its own independent investigation into the facts and circumstances of the shooting.“We felt it was very important to be thorough and objective in this investigation, so we went back to square one,” said Mr. Weir, “Our investigation took over four months and resulted in over 3,700 pages of reports and transcripts of interviews. Our investigation was completely independent of the Aurora Police Department’s investigation although they fully cooperated with us.”At the conclusion of the investigation, discrepancies remained concerning Mr. Vinzant’s actions and the positioning of his hands at the time of the shooting.“I believe deeply in our grand jury process. It lends credibility and trust to our criminal justice system. It is an opportunity for citizens of our community to listen to sworn testimony and then ferret out the truth,” said Mr. Weir, “This matter deserved the scrutiny of a grand jury. Under these circumstances, I believe the grand jury process was the appropriate avenue to achieve a just result.”The First Judicial District Attorney’s Office began presenting evidence to the grand jury in July, 2015. The sitting Arapahoe County Grand Jury was used because the incident occurred in that jurisdiction. The grand jury concluded its investigation in early December, 2015. Release of the grand jury’s report was authorized by the Court on December 30, 2015.
Grand Jury Report
December 30, 2015
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