You are on page 1of 42

DISTRICT COURT

ARAPAHOE COUNTY, COLORADO


Court Address: Arapahoe County Justice Center
7325 South Potomac Street, Centennial, CO 80112
IN RE: 2015 ARAPAHOE COUNTY GRAND JURY
0 COURT USE ONLY 0

Special Prosecutor
Peter A. Weir, District Attorney
First Judicial District
500 Jefferson County Parkway
Golden, CO 80401-6002
Phone Number: (303) 271-6800
FAX Number:
(303) 271-6888
Atty. Reg. #10017

Grand Jury Case Number:


15CR0002
Division/Ctrm:

ARAPAHOE COUNTY GRAND JURY REPORT

The Arapahoe County grand jury has investigated the shooting ofNaeschylus Carter
Vinzant by Officer Paul Jerothe of the Aurora Police Department on March 6, 2015. Members
of the grand jury examined physical evidence, reviewed dozens of photographs, questioned
witnesses without restriction, and requested evidence and documentation made available to
them. Upon completion ofthe investigation, the grand jury was instructed upon and applied
Colorado law pertaining to the use of deadly physical force. Based upon the facts and the law,
the grand jury determines that no true bill shall be issued.
The grand jury has additionally determined, pursuant to Section 16-5-205.5, Colorado
Revised Statutes, that a report is in the public interest because the investigation concerned
allegations of abuse of authority by a peace officer and allegations of commission of a class 1 or
class 2 felony.
The District Attorney for the Eighteenth Judicial District, George Brauchler, declared a
conflict of interest. Due to this declaration of conflict, the investigation was referred to the
grand jury on July 10, 2015 by Special Prosecutor Peter A. Weir, District Attorney for the First
Judicial District. This investigation was conducted by the grand jury without bias or prejudice,
and without connection to any parties to this investigation.
Background
On March 2, 2015 City of Aurora police officers were dispatched to a report of a
domestic-violence related incident. Upon arrival, an officer contacted the victim, who
identified herself as Naeschylus Carter Vinzant's wife. [Naeschylus Carter Vinzant was known
by both surnames Carter and Vinzant. Law enforcement records used the name Vinzant. For
that reason this report will use that name, but does not mean to disregard the legitimate use of
the surname Carter.] The victim had several visible injuries, including a scratch that had drawn

blood on her right hand, a bite mark on her left hand, redness and a scratch on her left cheek,
redness on her right cheek, and a mark consistent with an abrasion on her neck.
According to the victim, she was seated in her car when Mr. Vinzant arrived at her home
driving a red Ford Bronco. He smashed out her front driver's side window and punched her in
the face with a closed fist. Mr. Vinzant then reached inside of her vehicle and grabbed her keys
out of her right hand and they struggled. Mr. Vinzant seized her purse containing her wallet,
keys, and cell phone. He then removed their two-month old child from the vehicle. Mr.
Vinzant fled the area in the Bronco with the child and her purse. The officer observed her
vehicle's driver's side window was broken. The victim informed the officers that Mr. Vinzant
was currently on parole.
Later that morning Mr. Vinzant' s mother arrived at the same street address returning the
child, who was in good health and physically unharmed. Mr. Vinzant's mother advised police
of the location of the Bronco. Officers responded to that address and observed the Bronco.
Among other items inside the vehicle, an officer observed on the center console a black wallet
as described by the victim, and her purse located behind the front passenger seat. The officer
also observed blood in the vehicle.
Mr. Vinzant's parole officer confirmed through the GPS locator on Mr. Vinzant's ankle
monitor that Mr. Vinzant was at the victim' s home at the time and place of the incident. The
basic facts of this incident, and Mr. Vinzant's parole status, had been relayed to supervisors in
the Aurora Police Department (APD) through a "high priority notification." An APD detective
subsequently presented a case for filing with the Adams County District Attorney's Office
requesting an arrest warrant for the domestic violence charges of robbery, third degree assault,
and reckless endangerment. As of March 6, 2015 that warrant had not yet issued.
Mr. Vinzant had been placed on intensive supervision parole following a prison sentence
for first degree assault. Mr. Vinzant was classified as a high-risk offender based upon objective
evaluations performed on every inmate, and was required to wear an ankle monitor with Global
Positioning System capability while on parole. On the morning of March 2, after the alleged
robbery, the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) Division of Adult Parole was notified
of an equipment (ankle monitor) tampering alert concerning Naeschylus Carter Vinzant. A
parole officer responded to Mr. Vinzant's residence of record, but Mr. Vinzant was not present,
despite the monitor indicating it was at that address. The parole officer searched for the ankle
monitor and located it in the basement buried under some clothing. Mr. Vinzant had cut off his
ankle monitor in violation of parole. An escape arrest warrant for Naeschylus Vinzant was
issued later that day.
The parole officer then completed a threat assessment form in which Mr. Vinzant scored
a high score of eight out of ten. The score on the assessment is used to prioritize the work of
the Department' s Fugitive Apprehension Unit (FAU) in apprehending escapees and parole
absconders. The high-risk score triggered a referral to the FAU. The basis of this assessment
included his crime of conviction, gang affiliation, the prior high risk evaluations, along with
other factors, including the allegations ofthe domestic-violence incident.
2

On March 5, 2015 Naeschylus Vinzant remained at large, and members ofthe FAU
contacted a sergeant in APD's Fugitive Apprehension and Surveillance Team (FAST) to request
assistance in arresting Mr. Vinzant. The APD Fugitive Unit tracks down wanted parties and
fugitives. Based upon the request for assistance, the FAST sergeant informed his unit that they
might be activated to locate and apprehend Mr. Vinzant the following day.
On March 6, 2015, members ofthe FAU advised FAST officers that they had Mr.
Vinzant's residence of record and another address under surveillance. Based upon the threat
assessment confronting them in arresting Mr. Vinzant, the FAST team enlisted the assistance of
the APD Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. SWAT officers support other units in the
police department, often in high-risk operations. A member ofFAST sent an email to the
SWAT sergeant, which he then forwarded to the core members ofthe team, including Officer
Jerothe.
Initially, the email said FAST might need help making an arrest. It described that FAST
and DOC were watching two addresses in Aurora, Mr. Vinzant's mother' s home and what the
email described as "OF/Ex-wife's house." (The person referred to in this email as the "OF/Exwife" is the same person who identified herself as Mr. Vinzant's wife on March 2, and the
location referred to is the same residence where that incident took place.) The email said the
"target" and "GF/Ex-wife" were involved in the incident described in the high priority
notification of March 2, setting out the basic facts ofthe robbery and assault, including Mr.
Vinzant's breaking the car windows, taking the purse, wallet, and keys, and punching the victim
in the head, and that a detective was seeking an arrest warrant. The notice included a reference
to Mr. Vinzant taking the two-month old infant who was, according to the email, "eventually
brought back" by Mr. Vinzant's mother.
The email included Mr. Vinzant's escape status from parole by cutting off his ankle
monitor, and that an arrest warrant had been issued.
The email also included information from the FAST sergeant describing a prior arrest of
Mr. Vinzant:
On a side note, we arrested him back in 09/2013 w Denver
Fugitive at 61h/Potomac (not sure if you guys were there or
not). Drugs were found on him and he told [the FAST
sergeant] if he would have had a gun he would have shot it
out with us or words to that effect and [the FAST sergeant]
said he believed this dude as opposed to the countless
others we here (sic) it from, so just be aware.
The email included the phrases "CAUTION VIOLENT TENDENCIES" and "KNOWN
TO ABUSE DRUGS." After listing numerous aliases, the email contained this warning:
CAUTION- VIOLENT, SUBSTANCE ABUSER- ORIGINAL
CHARGES 1sT DEGAS SAULT X2, MENACING . . .
Because the FAST unit does not involve SWAT on every apprehension, the mere request
3

for SWAT assistance constituted recognition ofthe potential dangerousness of Mr. Vinzant by
FAST members. The email heightened awareness of SWAT members that they needed to
prepare for the possibility of armed resistance. Intelligence of this kind is routinely shared
among officers participating in high-risk operations in the interest of officer and community
safety and to ensure that no one is hurt, including the wanted subject.
The search for Mr. Vinzant
Numerous officers with Aurora Police Department special units (DART, FAST, SWAT,
Gang Intervention) and DOC engaged in the operation to find and arrest Mr. Vinzant on March
6, 2015. A number of different locations were surveilled.
At approximately 11:45 a.m., a male matching the physical description of Mr. Vinzant
got in the driver's seat of the Ford Bronco and began driving. He engaged in a series of
complicated driving maneuvers, repeatedly driving in large circles, abruptly changing lanes, all
without appearing to be actually driving to a specific location. He drove at both abnormally fast
and slow speeds, but without any indication of intoxication or impairment. To the trained
officers it was apparent he was conducting countersurveillance. These tactics, which the police
describe as "burn runs," are designed to detect and evade police surveillance.
Mr. Vinzant went south on Wheeling, turned west on Fitzsimons Way, then north on
Xanadu. The Bronco then proceeded eastbound on 28th Avenue to Billings, turned south on
Billings, east on 23rd, then south on Sable. The Bronco entered the Phillips 66 gas station
located on the northwest corner of Colfax and Sable. The Bronco went to the pumps on the west
side of the gas station and pulled forward, then backwards and did not fuel up. The Bronco
continued south through the lot and eventually came back eastbound through the lot and back
northbound on Sable. Surveillance was unable to make a positive identification of the driver.
The Bronco made it to Smith Road and was in the westbound turn lane for Smith Road
on Sable at a red light. The Bronco then backed up and got in the through lane to continue
northbound. At this point he was behind an unmarked undercover police vehicle. The light
cycled to green and the Bronco continued north on Sable.
A few minutes later the vehicle went back westbound on 35th Ave. and then southbound
on Sable. Surveillance observed the vehicle then go westbound on 28th Ave. The vehicle turned
southbound on Worchester and then westbound on Fitzsimons Way. Surveillance then observed
the Bronco in the dead end at 25th Ave and Fitzsimons Way.
At one point, one of the SWAT officers followed the Bronco for a period of time, then
was forced to leave the surveillance to avoid being identified. In an effort to find the Bronco
again, he turned toward the area he last saw the Bronco. The officer pulled over and parked. In
his rearview mirror the officer saw the Bronco creeping down the street at approximately five
miles per hour. The vehicle turned into a cul-de-sac and stopped in the middle of the street, sat
there for a minute, then slowly turned around. It stopped at the end of the cul-de-sac and parked
for only a minute before driving back in the direction from where it just came.
The officers continually aired this driving pattern over the radio, and Officer Jerothe was
monitoring the radio traffic. The police eventually lost sight of the Bronco but maintained
4

surveillance in the area.


Between approximately 12:30-1:00 p.m., surveillance officers advised that Mr.
Vinzant's ex-wife entered a taxi cab carrying an infant carrier. Police followed the cab to the
16290 block of E. 17th Ave. where an officer had already found the Bronco parked. The officer
could not tell whether the vehicle was occupied or not and got out on foot to see. The officer
determined the Bronco was unoccupied. When the cab arrived the officer observed the ex-wife
exit the cab and enter the Bronco.
An officer assigned to the Gang Intervention Unit (GIU) was apprised ofthe operation to
locate Mr. Vinzant at about noon on March 6. The officer was able to access a photograph of
Naeschylus Vinzant on his police laptop computer, as well as information about Mr. Vinzant's
tattoos, which was included in the email from FAST. The tattoos were "CMGB " on Mr.
Vinzant's abdomen and "Park Hill" on his back. The officer knew through training and
experience that these are gang tattoos for members of the Crenshaw Mafia Gangster Blood
street gang. He followed the radio traffic about the search. He drove to 13th Ave. and Laredo
St. where he turned north on Laredo St. There he observed a male walking south on Laredo St
on the east sidewalk in front of Laredo Elementary School.
The officer believed the male matched the description ofNaeschylus Vinzant. The male
was wearing all dark clothing including a winter hat and what looked to the officer to be a large
hooded sweatshirt. Mr. Vinzant was talking on a cell phone and looked directly at the officer.
Very confident ofhis identification, the officer aired that Mr. Vinzant was walking south. The
officer turned around to go southbound on Laredo St. and stopped near 12th Ave. where the
officer could see Mr. Vinzant walking east on 12th Ave. from Laredo St. The officer aired that
he was 100 percent sure of this identification.
After this officer positively identified Mr. Vinzant walking eastbound on 1th Ave. ,
SWAT and DART officers, in two different vehicles, closed in to make the arrest.
The arrest
The grand jury heard testimony from all officers present at the scene, other officers who
conducted the surveillance, and those who arrived immediately thereafter. Other witnesses
included the fire department paramedic, a citizen that lived on that block and a citizen who was
driving on that block when the police contacted Mr. Vinzant. Members ofthe grand jury
questioned these witnesses. Based upon the investigation, the grand jury has reconciled any
discrepancies to determine that the facts described in this report contain an accurate description
of the events which were the subject of this investigation. Each witness's perceptions of what
happened reflect their position relative to the event, level of involvement, and focus during the
incident.
There was general consistency in the descriptions of the arrest and shooting. However,
as with any complex incident, some recollections varied. The grand jury does not believe Mr.
Vinzant took any actions during the arrest other than those described herein, and gave no
indication of surrender either by word or deed prior to the shooting. Testimony from witnesses
who described perceptions other than the facts contained herein was received and evaluated and
5

ultimately reconciled with all other evidence and testimony.


Aurora SWAT officers train extensively on making safe arrests. Arresting wanted
suspects, both in vehicles and on foot, is a common part of the job for which they train and
perform on almost a daily basis. Although arrest situations occur every day, it is rare for SWAT
officers to have used deadly physical force. On March 6, three SWAT officers and a medic
were assigned to a GMC Yukon. Two officers, including Officer Jerothe, carried M-4 rifles.
The SWAT officer driving the Yukon was armed with a less-lethal.40mm launcher. The
paramedic was assigned only to act in case medical assistance was needed, and carried only his
handgun. Pursuant to SWAT training he was not to take part in the arrest itself.
A Ford F-150 pickup with members of another specialized unit, the Direct Action
Response Team (DART), followed the SWAT vehicle as part ofthe arrest team. Both vehicles
were unmarked. One DART officer carried a rifle, another a .40mm less-lethal weapon. The
two other DART officers acted as "hands on" response with only their handguns. All SWAT
and DART officers were similarly equipped. Each wore clearly-identified police clothing,
although not the standard patrol uniform. They wore tactical helmets, standard-issue ballistic
vests overlay with a "plate carrier," an extra layer of protection from bullets, along with their
handguns. Other police vehicles were also in the area.
After hearing a positive identification of Mr. Vinzant over the radio around 1:10 p.m.,
the SWAT and DART units responded to the area and headed eastbound on E. 1th Ave. The
SWAT officers first saw Mr. Vinzant walking eastbound on the sidewalk on.the south side of E.
1th Ave. The SWAT vehicle drove past Mr. Vinzant without the driver activating either lights
or siren. The Yukon pulled up angled next to Mr. Vinzant, with the center of the Yukon closest
to Mr. Vinzant, who had his left hand up to his ear appearing to hold a cell phone (although his
phone records do not reflect that he was actually engaged in a call at this time). Mr. Vinzant's
right hand was in the pocket of his jacket and not visible to the officers. Mr. Vinzant looked at
the officer in the front passenger seat and started to run in the opposite direction (westbound)
from where he had been walking. It was obvious Mr. Vinzant was aware these were police
officers.
Consistent with their training, the officers quickly got out of their truck and took
positions. The officer in the front passenger seat got out of the Yukon and moved toward the
sidewalk in front of where Mr. Vinzant had been walking. Although the officer planned to give
the standard SWAT command of"Police. Don't move," he never got the order out before Mr.
Vinzant started running. The officer yelled "runner" to alert other officers. Mr. Vinzant's right
hand remained in his pocket even as he started to run. This officer raised his rifle to a ready
position.
After running a few steps, Mr. Vinzant seemed to observe that the DART vehicle had
pulled up and stopped in front of him. The DART pickup truck was about a car length west
from the back ofthe Yukon, as depicted in Attachment 1. DART officers exited that vehicle.
They identified themselves as police officers and yelled to Mr. Vinzant not to move. The front
seat passenger, carrying a rifle, stepped out of the DART vehicle in front of where Mr. Vinzant
6

was running. The officer in the rear seat on the passenger side, carrying a less lethal weapon
was blocked by the officer in front of him, slowing him down in getting into position. Both the
driver and the officer in the back seat on the driver's side went to the front of the pickup on the
street side.
Apparently realizing this avenue of escape was blocked, Mr. Vinzant stopped. He was
on the sidewalk between the two police vehicles parked in the street. Mr. Vinzant began to
twist his body back around toward the north but had not started turning his feet. As Mr.
Vinzant did so, his torso rotated to face Officer Jerothe who had taken a position in the street
near the rear of his vehicle. Officer Jerothe was on the driver's side in the open space between
the Yukon and the F-150. Mr. Vinzant and Officer Jerothe were approximately 10-15 feet
apart. A house with a lawn covered with snow was behind Mr. Vinzant and he could not run
south in that direction. All of his escape routes were blocked. He lowered his body into what
appeared to be an athletic posture or fighting stance.
With a sudden, jerking movement Mr. Vinzant moved his right arm as iftrying to take it
out of his pocket while holding something. It looked to the officers that Mr. Vinzant was
removing something from his right pocket. One officer described this movement as if his hand
got hung up on something trying to get an item out. Another said it was very similar to the
motion of drawing a pistol from a holster, with the elbow coming straight up and back a little
bit.
Officer Jerothe fired his rifle once, striking Mr. Vinzant in the chest, penetrating his lung
and severing his spinal cord, resulting in Mr. Vinzant's death. No other officers fired. At the
time of the shooting neither of the officers carrying less lethal weapons was in a position to use
them.
Mr. Vinzant fell backwards, continuing his twisting motion. As he fell to the ground his
right hand came out of the jacket pocket, and when he hit the ground both of Mr. Vinzant's
hands were outside the jacket. The pathologist testified that momentum could have continued
Mr. Vinzant's movements after being shot, accounting for his right hand outside the pocket. The
grand jury finds that Mr. Vinzant did not have his hands up nor make any gesture of surrender
prior to the shooting.
Medical intervention undertaken by the SWAT paramedics and others was unable to
save Mr. Vinzant. No weapon was found either in his pocket or in the immediate vicinity of
Mr. Vinzant's body.
Officer Jerothe's testimony
Officer Paul Officer Jerothe has been a police officer since 2006. His entire law
enforcement career has been with the Aurora Police Department. Before joining the department
he worked as a full-time paramedic with the City of Denver. Officer Jerothe started working
with the SWAT unit in 2007. He joined SWAT initially full-time as a paramedic, and then
transitioned to a core member of the team with full SWAT responsibilities, a position described
as "operator." On March 6, 2015 he was working as a SWAT operator and not a paramedic.
The Aurora Police Department trains all of their officers in an arrest control technique
7

known as the "Koga" technique. Officer Jerothe has received extensive training in this police
procedure, including classes to certify him as an instructor.
Officer Jerothe has participated in hundreds of arrests as a member of SWAT, both of
pedestrians and from vehicles, and has never been part of another arrest where an officer fired
his weapon. Throughout his career Officer Jerothe has received excellent evaluations from his
superior officers. He was one of the first responders to the Aurora theater shooting and was
awarded a commendation for his actions.
The grand jury considers Officer Jerothe's testimony credible when evaluated in light of
all testimony and evidence received by the grand jury.
On March 6, Officer Jerothe read the email from the FAST officer which was forwarded
by the SWAT sergeant. Officer Jerothe noted that Mr. Vinzant had been to prison, and after
being released on parole had cut off his ankle monitor. To Officer Jerothe this meant Mr.
Vinzant was trying to keep his location secret to avoid being apprehended. Officer Jerothe
noted the email described the commission of a new violent crime, for which an APD detective
was seeking an arrest warrant. This heightened Officer Jerothe's belief they were going to
arrest a violent individual.
Officer Jerothe was also particularly concerned about Mr. Vinzant's statement following
the prior arrest in which he told the FAST sergeant that had he been armed, Mr. Vinzant would
have engaged in a shootout with the police. As part of the fugitive unit the sergeant would have
heard such a threat many times. His actual belief in this statement emphasized the potential
threat present in making this arrest. Officer Jerothe described this warning as really catching
his attention.
Officer Jerothe was concerned because the email described Mr. Vinzant as both violent
and a drug abuser, a combination which, in Officer Jerothe's experience, increases the risk of
violence. The criminal history of first degree assault indicated to Officer Jerothe that Mr.
Vinzant previously caused serious bodily injury with a deadly weapon.
Combining all of this information gave Officer Jerothe a picture of a violent individual
who by removing his ankle monitor demonstrated he did not wish to return to prison. Officer
Jerothe also believed this arrest involved a wanted person who had made a credible statement in
a similar situation that he would rather shoot it out than face arrest, heightening the officer's
threat assessment. The burn runs performed by Mr. Vinzant confirmed to Officer Jerothe that
Mr. Vinzant might violently resist arrest.
Officer Jerothe listened to radio traffic as his team assembled and prepared to make the
arrest. He was assigned to a GMC Yukon with two other SWAT officers and a paramedic, with
Officer Jerothe in the back seat behind the driver. Officer Jerothe believed it was likely Mr.
Vinzant was going to run and told the officer with the less lethal weapon (the driver) to be
ready. Officer Jerothe was carrying his department-issued rifle which he had used and trained
on.
Officer Jerothe testified that as the Yukon pulled up, Mr. Vinzant appeared to recognize
what was happening and began to run. Officer Jerothe took a position at the rear of his vehicle.
8

He expected to see Mr. Vinzant fleeing but instead he saw the DART pickup block Mr.
Vinzant's escape route. Mr. Vinzant turned toward Officer Jerothe who was now blocking the
last avenue of escape. Mr. Vinzant had turned his torso toward the officer, but was not fully
facing him. Officer Jerothe had brought his rifle up to the ready position.
As Mr. Vinzant turned the two made eye contact. According to Officer Jerothe, Mr.
Vinzant looked angry, his brow furrowed and his jaw clenched. Officer Jerothe saw Mr.
Vinzant' s upper body tense up while Mr. Vinzant took an athletic or aggressive stance as he
turned his upper body, feet remaining pointed the other direction. Referring to the "fight or
flight" response, Officer Jerothe believed Mr. Vinzant had just lost his final avenue of flight and
was preparing to fight.
Officer Jerothe could see Mr. Vinzant's left hand by his ear. Because he was looking
through a rifle sighting system, Officer Jerothe could only see Mr. Vinzant from the middle of
the chest upwards. Officer Jerothe could not see Mr. Vinzant's right hand, blocked by the rifle
and attachments as he looked through the sighting system. Officer Jerothe was approximately
ten feet from Mr. Vinzant, and about to advance on Mr. Vinzant in order to exert physical
restraint.
At that moment, Officer Jerothe saw Mr. Vinzant's right shoulder jerk back. This was
not, according to the officer, a movement of putting both hands up at the same time, but a
unilateral movement only of his right arm. To Officer Jerothe, this action was not consistent
with a smooth, fluid movement of surrender, but one of aggression. He testified that the email
warning describing that Mr. Vinzant said he would shoot it out with the police was "playing in
his mind." Officer Jerothe believed that Mr. Vinzant was going to shoot. Officer Jerothe
testified he thought he was going to be killed. Based on all the information available to the
officer, coupled with what appeared to him to be a suspect pulling a gun, Officer Jerothe
believed he was facing imminent use of deadly force against him.
Officer Jerothe believed, consistent with his training and experience, immediate action
was necessary or else he and his fellow officers would be facing an armed suspect willing to
shoot it out rather than go back to prison. Officer Jerothe described that, as part of his Koga
training, he was taught that anyone wanting to use a deadly weapon against an officer will
always have the ability to act more quickly than the officer can react. Officer Jerothe testified
he felt he was out of time to react; that unless he acted immediately he was going to be shot.
Less than five seconds had elapsed since the Yukon had pulled up. All of these considerations
went through his mind in a matter of seconds, even fractions of seconds. He fired his rifle once.
When the bullet hit Mr. Vinzant in the chest it caused him to stagger backwards and fall.
Officer Jerothe expected to see a gun in Mr. Vinzant's hand. Realizing there was no gun, the
officer described that his mind "kind oflocked up." Officer Jerothe had been absolutely
convinced he was about to be shot and killed and other officers placed injeopardy of being shot
unless he acted first. Upon seeing no weapon he became emotionally upset. Officer Jerothe has
no memory of what he said to anyone immediately after the shooting.

After the shooting


Other officers approached Mr. Vinzant immediately upon seeing him go down, at first
unsure of his condition. The officers and SWAT paramedics provided immediate medical
attention to Mr. Vinzant. However, Mr. Vinzant was pronounced dead at the hospital.
According to the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, there was a single entrance
wound to the right upper chest. The bullet went through the chest cavity and caused a rib
fracture to one of the ribs. It went through the right lung, causing damage to large blood vessels
that feed the lung. The bullet caused significant injury to the spinal cord at the T-4 or midchest
region before finally coming to a stop in multiple fragments in the subcutaneous tissue in the
back. The bullet traveled front to back and right to left. There was no angle up or down. The
autopsy revealed a finding ofTHC and cocaine metabolites in Mr. Vinzant's system.
No gun was found in Mr. Vinzant's pocket, anywhere on his person, or in the immediate
vicinity of Mr. Vinzant. Inside the right pocket was a set of keys on a carabiner, nothing else.
The grand jury investigation
The grand jury received evidence at 11 sessions with 24 witnesses. The combined grand
jury transcripts exceed 2200 pages oftestimony. Members ofthe grand jury examined physical
evidence, including the rifle used by Officer Jerothe, and reviewed dozens of photographs.
Members of the grand jury questioned the witnesses without restriction, and requested evidence
and documentation be brought to them. All identified eyewitnesses who were present during
the shooting testified, in addition to other witness. The grand jury is satisfied the investigation
was thorough and no additional witnesses or evidence would alter the grand jury's conclusion.
In deciding not to issue a true bill, the grand jury has evaluated the credibility of all
witnesses and resolved conflicts in the testimony to determine the facts as described in this
report. The grand jury does not believe any witness testified to anything other than what he or
she recalls, but that perceptions and memories are often inconsistent in the face of extreme
stress when viewing and remembering a traumatic, short-duration event.
An expert testified to the reactions of persons to traumatic events and how that shapes
their perceptions and memories. The expert offered insight concerning human decision-making,
witness perception, action and reaction times, observational attention, and witness recollection
and memory in high-stress situations. This testimony related to the actions ofNaeschylus
Vinzant and Qfficer Jerothe, and witness testimony, memory, and recall.
Use of deadly force
The grand jury was presented the alternatives of indicting Officer Jerothe on charges of
murder in the first degree (Section 18-3-102, Colorado Revised Statutes), murder in the second
degree (Section 18-3-103, Colorado Revised Statutes), manslaughter (Section 18-3-104,
Colorado Revised Statutes), and criminally negligent homicide (Section 18-3-105, Colorado
Revised Statutes). The grand jury was also instructed on the law pertaining to the use of deadly
force. Specifically, the grand jury applied Section 18-1-704(2), Colorado Revised Statutes,
Physical Force in Defense of a Person, and Section 18-1-707 (2), Colorado Revised Statutes,
Use ofPhysical Force in Making an Arrest or Preventing an Escape.
10

Any person in Colorado is authorized to use deadly force when he reasonably believes a
lesser degree of force is inadequate and that he or another is in imminent danger of being killed
or receiving great bodily injury.
A peace officer is legally justified in using deadly physical force in making an arrest
when he reasonably believes it is necessary to defend himself or others from what he reasonably
believes to be the imminent use of deadly physical force.
In addition, the grand jury has been instructed on and applied the law of Colorado which
requires evaluation of Officer Jerothe's actions in light of how the situation appeared to him.
Anyone acting in self defense can act upon an apparent necessity. Apparent necessity justifies
the use of deadly force to the same extent as actual danger, if, in light of all relevant evidence, a
reasonable person would have acted the same way in similar circumstances.
The grand jury finds Officer Jerothe reasonably acted on appearances in using deadly
physical force when considering all the information known to him and taking into account the
totality of the circumstances facing the officer, even though no weapon was discovered and Mr.
Vinzant was unarmed.
Applying Section 18-1-704, Colorado Revised Statutes, the grand jury finds Officer
Jerothe was reasonable in believing a lesser degree of force was inadequate in the face of a
threat to himself and other officers of being killed or receiving great bodily injury.
Applying Section 18-1-707, Colorado Revised Statutes the grand jury finds Officer
Jerothe was legally justified in believing using deadly physical force was necessary to defend
himself and others from the immediate threat of deadly physical force being used against them.
The grand jury, therefore, issues no true bill as a result of this investigation.

II

en

DISTRICT COURT, ARAPAHOE COUNTY,


STATE OF COLORADO
7325 S. Potomac St.
Centennial Colorado 80112
-

COURT USE ONLY .t.

.IN RE: 2015 ARAPAHOE COUNTY GRAND


JURY

Case No. 15CR0002


Division: 201

ORDER RELEASING ARAPAHOE COUNTY GRAND JURY S REPORT


INTRODUCTION
The Court is called upon to decide whether the public is entitled to see a
grand jury rep01t regarding the investigation into the shooting death ofNaeschylus
Carter Vinzant in March 2015 by Officer Paul Jerothe, an officer with the Aurora
Police Depatttnent. For the reasons articulated in this Order, the Court concludes
that the grand jury report must be released to the public. Accordingly, the Court
accepts the report and files it as a public record.

BACKGROUND
The 20 tS Arapahoe County Grand Jury, which is composed of fair and
impartial Arapahoe County citizens randomly selected by the Court, recently
investigated the March 6 20 IS shooting death of Naeschylus Carter Vinzant by

Officer Paul Jerothe. The investigation was introduced to the grand jury by the
prosecution on July J0, 2015, and was completed in December 2015.
The prosecution pre ented the investigating grand jury the altemativcs of
indicting Officer Jeroth on charg
.R.S. (20 15); (2) Murder in the

of: (I) Murder in the First Degree, 18-3-102,


econd Degree, 18-3-103 C.R.S. (20 I 5)"

(3) Manslaughter, 18-3-104 C.R.S. (20 15) and ( 4) Criminally Negligent


Homicide, 18-3-105 C.R.S. (2015). The grand jury was also instructed by the
prosecution on the law governing the affinnati e defense of self-defense both in
the context of a person lawfu11y using deadly physical force to defend himself or
another and in the context of a peace officer lawfully using deadly physical force
while making an arrest when he reasonably believes it is necessary to defend
himself or another.

See .' 18-l-704(1-3) & 18-1-707(2) C.R.S. (2015). 1

Ultimately, the grand jury declined to return an indictment against Officer Jerothe.
Therefore. the grand jury issued no true bill following its in estigation.

A person was lcgall authorized to use deadly physical fore upon another without fir t
retreating if: (I) he u. eel that deadl phy ical nrce in order to defend him:elf or anoth r from
hat he reasonabl belie ed to be the use or imminent u e of unlawful physical force by the
other per on (2) he reasonably believed that a lesser degree of force was inadequate; and (3) he
bad a reasonable ground to believe. and did believe, that he or omeone else v as in imminent
danger of being ki lied o r of suffering great bodily injur . 18-1-704(1-3). A peace officer was
legally authorized to u e deadly physical force upon another if he reasonably believed that it was
neces ar to defend him elf or someone el e from what he rea onably believed to be the u e or
imminent usc of deadly ph sical tbrcc while making. or attempting to make. an arre t. 18-1702(2).

However, pursuant to section 16-5-205.5(1), C.R.S. (2015), the grand jury


determined that preparation and release of a report of its findings would be in the
public interest. This determination required 'an affirmative vote of at least nine
jurors. See 16-5-205.5(1) (the detennination whether preparation and release of
a report would be in the public interest ' must be made by an affirmative vote of at
least the number of jurors that would ha e been required to return an indictment)

16-S-204(3)(e),

.R .. (2015) (the grand jury has a duty ... by an affirmative

vote of nine r more member ... to determine based on the evidence presented
before it, whether or not there is probable cause for finding indictments and to
determine the iolations in any such indictments'').
A1though the Court has super i ory responsibility o er the grand jury and
serves as a check on its power see 13-73-105 C.R.S. (20 t

the Court does not

participate in the grand jury's investigations and the Court had no involvement in
this particular investigation. Where, as here the grand jury decides to have a
report of its findings prepared and r leascq the

omt's role is limited. The Court

mu t d termine whether the report hould be released to the public. As set forth in
thi Order the Court rules that the grand jury report must be released to the public.

ANALYSIS

A.

GNtnfl Jury /11ve tigfltiotts

J.

General Informa.tion About the Grand Jury

A grand jury is an inve tigative body' that decides whether an individual or


organization should be criminally charged through an indictment. Crim. P. 6.2(a).
''The purpose of a grand jury in estigation is to disco er facts that will enable the
grand jury to d tcrmin

,. hether Lonnal charg

hould be fi1 d."

People

Rickard 761 P.2d 188 193 (Colo. 1988).


Witnesses may be subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury. Crim. P. 6.1.
Such witnesses may be ordered to testify under oath or to "provide other
information, including any book. document. record, recording, or other material."
. 16-5-204. The prosecution may present to the grand jury the sworn testimony of
witnesses, as well as tangible evidence such as photographs and video recordings.
C/ Crim. P. 16(a)(J )(II) (requiring the prosecuting attorney to provide the

defendant with transcripts of grand jury testimony and all tangibl

e idence

presented to the grand jury in connection with the case).


Pursuant to a written request by the grand jury, the court must 'appoint an
investigator or investigators to assist the grand jury in its investigative functions.'

Crim. P. 6.5(a). Howe er, while a grand jury investigator may testify, he or she
may not question a witness who appears before the grand jury. Crim. P. 6.5(b).
4

Nor shall such an investigator comment to the grand jury on the e idence or the
credibility of any witness. /d.
There are significant differences between jury trials and grand jury
proceedings. For example, the defendant and his counsel are generally present in
In sharp contrast, during grand jury

the courtroom throughout a jury trial.

proceedings, neilher the person under in estigation nor his or her attorney is
allowed to be in attendance, except when the person under investigation testifies
under oath.
Further, the judge 111u t be present in the cout1room throughout a jury trial.
But the judge does not attend any of the grand jury's investigative sessions.
Additionally, during deliberations at the end of a criminal trial, the jury
attempts to reach a verdict, usually "guilty" or "not guilty," by determining what
the facts are and applying the law provided by the Court to those facts. On the
other hand, during deliberations at the end of a grand jury's investigative sessions,
the grand jury applies the law pro ided by the prosecution to the evidence
presented in order to determine whether criminal charges should be filed against
the person or business under investigation.

2.

Selection and Impaneling of the Grand Jury

Despite the many di fterences between jury trials and grand jury investigative
sessions, the principles surrounding the selection and impaneling of a grand jury

are essentially the same a those that apply to the selection and impaneling of a
trial jury. The jury commissioner of the county where the grand jury is to be
con ened selects prospective grand jurors usually from the first seventy-five
names on the list of citizens who have been randomly selected as pot ntial jurors.
' 13-72-103, C.R.S. (20 15). The commi ioner summons those people in the same
general manner as prospective trial jurors. ld. The qualifications for grand jurors
are generally the same as those prescribed by statute for trial jurors, except that a
felony con iction is grounds for disqualification trom service on a grand jury.
13-71-1 05(3), C. R.S. (20 15).
Typically, a county grand jury consists of twelve citizens who reside in the
county. 13-72-102, C.R.S. (2015) see also Colo. Const. art. ll 23 (size of
grand jury fixed at twelve persons, subject to legislative change). Alternates are
selected to fill vacancies in the event grand jurors are excused by the Court. 1372-1 03; 13-72-106, C.R.S. (20 15).2 The alternates do not attend any of the grand
jury sessions and are not allowed to participate in the grand jury deliberations
unless they are designated by the Court to replace juror who are excused from
servtce.

13-72-1 06. The Court conducts the voir dire of potential jurors to

determine their qualif1cation to serve on the grand jury.

Four alternates arc required. 13-72-106.

The grand

jurors are randomly chosen from the list of the prospecti e grand jurors who
responded to their summonses.
During the selection of a grand jury the Court may question the prospective
jurors or allow the prosecution to do o (or both). The pr e ution may challenge
pr pective grand jurors for cau e.
3.

In

Function Qf the Gtand Jury

olorado, district attorneys are vested with broad pros cutorial discretion

"and may bring charges either by filing a complaint ... or by presenting a grand
jury indictment in open cowt.' In re 2000-2001 Dist. Grand Jury, 22 P.3d 922
924 (Colo. 2002) (citations omitted). 3

However our criminal justice system in

olorado is not geared to the use of the grand juty in every criminal case.' !d.
(quotation om itt d).. Rather, a prosecutor should utilize a complaint Has the
charging document in the ordinary case.' Id. (quotation omitted . In the asl
majority of cases in Colorado, when a disttict attomey brings criminal charges, he
or she does by filing a complaint, not through a grand jury indictment.
(n

ituation

uch as thi one though. where public concem i great it is

d sirable to have the grand jury serve in the investigative role.

In re 2003-2004

Term o.fState Grand Jwj, 148 P.3d 440, 443 (Colo. App. 2006) (citation omitted).
) The offic of th district attorney 1 cr atcd by th Colorado on titution. Colo. Consl. art. VJ.
I . Pur uant to the auth rity granted b the Con titution. the legislature ha determined the
rc. p n ibilitic ofthcdi trictattomey .. 20-1-103.C.R.S.(2015).

On the other hand, the grand jury should not be used for political or other
improper purposes and should not be utilized as a handmaiden to the district
attorney.'' !d. (quotation omitted).

4.

Regulation of the Grand ,Jury

Under the Colorado Constitution, Hthe power to regulate the grand jury" is
"expressly delegate[d)' to the General Assembly.

See In re 2000-200 I Dist.

Grand Jury, 22 P.3d at 925 (citing Colo. Const. art 2, 23 which provides that
"the general as embly may change regulate or abolish the grand jury system").
The Genera) Assembly has vested the grand jury with "broad powers" so that it
may act "as an investigative and accusatory body to ferret out criminal activiLy."

ln re 2003-2004 Term of State Grand .hoy 148 P.3d 440 at 443 (quotation
omitted). But the grand jury '"should not be used as a super-legislative body or to
express views on political issues." In re 2000-2001 Dist. Grand Jw:v, 22 P.3d at
924. Rather, the grand jury has a ''duty to inquire into offenses against the criminal
laws of the state of Colorado alleged to have been committed." 16-5-204(3)(a).
In discharging this duty, the grand jury 'act[s] as an independent barrier which
protects the innocent from oppressive prosecution.
i 43, 606 P.2d 849, 851 (Colo. 1980).

People v. Maestas, 199 Colo.

5.

Duty of the District Attorney in Grand Jury Se sions

When a prosecuting attorney pre cnts an investigation of alleged criminal


conduct to a grand jury, he or she is charged by the legislature "with a duty to
appear and ad ise" the grand jury, as well as to examine witnesses who may be
subpoenaed" before the grand jury. People ex rei. Losavio v. Gentty, 199 Colo.

153. 505 P.2d 57, 159 (Colo. 1980) (quoting 20-1-106, C.R.S. (2015)). 4 "Except
as otherwise provided by statute, the d1 trict attorney is the sole authority charged
with performing these duties and he may not be supplanted in his duties by any
other authority

including the Comt. !d. Indeed the Court does not participate in

grand jury investigations and is not present in grand jury sessions or while the
grand jury deliberates.

6.
Generally

Secrecy of Grand Jury Proceedine;s


[t]o work effectively it is important that society's criminal

process satisfy the appearance of justice and the appearance of justice can best be
provided by allowing people to obser e it."

Richmond NelHpapers, Inc. v.

Virginia, 448 U.S. 555 571-72, 100 S.Ct. 2814,65 . d.2d 973 (1980). However,
grand jury proceedings arc different fiom all other criminal proceedings.
United States Supreme

ourt has consistent!

The

recognized 'that the proper

prosecuting attorney "is a minister ofjustice hose obligation is to guard the rights of the
as well as to enforce the rights ofthc public." State v. Penkaty, 708 N.W.2d 185, 196
(Mi nn. 2006) (qu tation omiued). In the context" of grand jury proceeding . a prosecutor .. must
exercise caution to ensure that the grand jury retains its indcp nd nt role in our lega l system ."
.J

/d. (quotation omiU d) .

functioning of our grand jury system depends upon the secrecy of grand jury
proceedings.' Douglas Oil Co. v. Petrol Stops Northwest 44 J U.S. 211 218, 99
S.Ct. 1667, 60 LEd.2d 156 (1979) (citation omitted). The secrecy accorded grand
jury proceedings is ' indispensable, Granberry '. Dis/. Court, 187 Colo. 316, 531
7

'

P.2d 390, 392 ( olo. 1975 ), and is Has important for the protection of the innocent
as for the pursuit of the guilty: United States v.. Johnson, 319 U.S. 503 513, 63
S. t. 1233 87 L.Ed. 1546 (1943).
In Doug/a , the United States Supreme Court obser ed that grand jury
proceedings must be cloaked with the robe of secrecy for multiple compelling
reasons:
Fir t, if preindictment proceedings were made public; many
pro pective witnesses would be hesitant to come forward voluntarily,
knowing that those against whom they testity would be awal'e of that
testimony. Morco er witnesses who appeared before the grand jury
woul.d be less likely to testify fully and frankly, as they would be open
to retribution as weU as to inducements. There also would be the risk
that those about to be indicted would flee, or would try to influence
individual grand jurors to vote against indictment. Finally, by
preserving the secrecy of the proceedings we assure that persons who
are accused but exonerated by the grand jury will not be held up to
public ridicule.

Douglas , 441 U.S. at 218, 99 S.Ct. 1667. Like the United States Supreme Court,
Colorado's appellate courts have recognized the need for secrecy in grand jury
investigations:
Some of the justifications for grand jury secrecy favor nondisclosure,
including insuring the utmost freedom to the grand jury in its
lO

deliberations, preventing subordination of perjury or tampering with


witnesses who may testify before the grand jury, encouraging free and
untrammeled disclosures by persons who have
and
protecting innocent persons from disclosure of the fact that they have
been under investigation.
in re Matter of 2000-2001 Dist. Grand Jury, 77 P.3d 779, 784 (Colo. App. 2003).

Thus, '(a]lthough members of the public generally have a right of access to


ministerial court records that right is subject to the rule of grand jury secrecy. ld.

7.

A Possible Exception to Secrecy: a Grand Jury Report

Section 16-5-205.5 alto\ s

ome information related to a grand Jury

investigation to be released to the public in limited circumstances. For example, if


the "grand jury does not r turn an indictment it may determine that preparation
and release of' a report of its findings" would be "in the pub1ic interest' 16-5205 .5 1).

A grand jury repmt may be issued and made public only under the

specific circumstances set forth in section 16-5-205.5. Jn re 2003-2004 Term of


State Grand J'wy, 148 P.3d at 443 (citing Crim. P. 6.7). No such report may be

prepared or released if an indi.ctment is returned.


In legislative hearings held on House Bill 97-1009, the bill that was
eventually enacted into law as section 16-5-205.5 then Denver District Attorney
Bill Ritter explained that 'the greater concern ... i that tile .secrecy provisio11 of
tile gnu1d jury sllou/d not always be sucll tlutt tl1e public is kept in tl1e blitul.,' In
re 2000-200 I Dist. Grand Jzny, 22 P.3d at 927 n.6 (emphasis added).

I1

the proponents of the bill opined that the secrecy of the grand jury proceedings
should not have priorit over the benefit the public would enjoy from a gr nd jury
report following an investigation into governmental conduct or operations. /d. at

927.
On the other hand

the sponsor of the bill. Senator Ed Perlmutter,

''specilically informed the Senate Judiciary Committee that grand jury repotts were
not t

be abused by Di trict Attomeys to satisfy a political

(quotation omitted}.

endetta."

ld.

In this connection, suppotters of the bill and legislators

''emphasized that the new statute provided adequate safeguards to ensure that only
reports containing information clearly in the public interest would be subject to
release. ' Id. The

ourt discusses these statutory safeguards in detai I next.

A grand jury repo11 must be ' accompanied by certi ftcation that the grand
jury has det rmined that release of the report is in the public interest as described
in sub ection (5) of [section 16-5-205.5].' 16-5-205.5(1 ). 5 Within fourteen days
after receiving a grand jury rep011, the prosecution is required to notify in writing
all persons and businesses named ' in the report to give them an opportunity to
revie\ ' the report and prepare a response. J 6-5-205.5(3). The notice "shall be

Section 16---205.5(5) states that a grand jury report may he deemed to be in the public
interest" i r it addresses one or more of the Jollowing: (a allegation related to the mi use or
mi application of public fund ; (b) all gations r lat d to a public ervant" or peac officer's
abu e of authority: (c) allegations of mi fea anc or
with rcsp ct to a governmental
function: and (d) all gat ions of commi ion of a Ia s I. 2. or 3 felon . 16-5-205 .5(5).
='

12

by personal serv1ce or by certified mail return receipt requested.'

Jd.

Any

responses must be submitted to the prosecution within fourteen days after the
'

notification. !d. The prosecution must "submit the grand jury report to the court,
together with the certification of public interest and any re ponses that may have
been submitted." 16-5-205.5(4).
The Court must then examine the grand jury report. As relevant here,' lt)he
trial court's role in revi wing grand jury proceedings is limited." ln re 2000-200 I

Dis/. Grand Jw) , 22 P.3d at 926. After examining the report the Court mu tissue
an order "accepting and filing the report . .. as a public record" if it finds: ( 1) "that
the grand jury and the prosecutor acted within the statutory jurisdiction of such
persons in convening the grand jury; ' and (2) that the grand jury and prosecuting
attorney have veritied that the cettification of 'public int rest" accompanying the
grand jury report complies with the definition within section 16"5-205.5(5), that
"the report is based on facts revealed in the record that are supported by a
prep nderancc of the evidence," that the report does "not contain material the sole
purpose of which is to ridicule or abu
public disgrac

a person or to ubject [that person] to

or embarrassment,' that the report does

not contain personal

information not relating to a lawful inquiry," that making the repot1 public will not
violate any confidentiality agreement" or identify any "confidential informant,'
and that the filing of the repm1 as a public record will

13

not prejudice the fair

consideration of a criminal matter." In re 2000-2001 Dist. Grand Jury, 22 P.3d at


16-5-205.5(4)).

926

"Signi ficantl y, '(t]he statute does not authorize the couti to inquire into the
underlying facts that compris the report, except to the extent that the court must
determine that ... the report contains matters of public intere t within the narrow
definition of the statute.' In re 2000-2001 Dist. Grand Jwy, 22 P.3d at 926. The
language of the statute reflects that the General Assembly intended "that the court
have limited discretion in determining whether the r pm1 should be released." /d.
Any grand jury report filed by the Com1 as a public record must include the
required certification of public interest and "any response[] that the respondent ...
has agreed to release.' 16-S-205.5(4). To the extent that the respondent wishes
to agree to release his respon se, he or she must do so "by written notice to the
prosecuting attorney and the court." ld.

B.

The Gran1 Jury Report Submitted Must Be Released to tile Public

The Court has examined the 2015 Arapahoe County Grand Jury s repm1
with respect to the investigation into Officer Jerothe's shooting of Mr. Vinzant,
including the required certification of public interest. 6 Based on its review of the
report, the Court makes the findings required by section 16-5-205 .5( 4 ).

OIJicer Jcrothc was the only li ing person named in the r pm1; no bu incss was named in the
report. \\ ithin fourteen days after recei ing the report. the prosecution notified him that he had
an opportunity to re ie\>\ the report and prepar a response. See Motion for Order to Make

14

First the grand jury acted with in its statutory jurisdiction. The grand jury
was convened in accordance with Colorado law, which provides that '"[t]he chief
judge of the district colllt in each county ... may order a grand jury summoned
where authorized by law or required by the public interest."

Crim. P. 6(a).

Consistent with Rule 6(a), section lJ-72-101 tates that grand juries shall not be
drawn, summoned, or required to attend the sitting of any court in any county in
this state unless pccially ordered b the court having jurisdiction to make such an
order and except as follows: in a county with a population of one hundred thousand
persons or more, '"a grand jury shall be drav n and summoned by the court to attend
the sitting of said court at the first term of such cour1 in each year." 13-72-101.
C.R.S. (2015).
According to the

nited States' 2014 Census

Arapahoe County's

population exceeds 600 000 individuals. Furth r, at the prosecution's reque t, the
Court ordered an Arapahoe ounty grand jury on January 2 2015. The grand jury
was then selected by the CoUJt on January 9, 2015. The Court randomly
12 grand jurors and tour altemates. In the process the Court did its utmost to

ensure that all of the grand juror selected were fair and impartial citizens or
Arapahoe County.

rapahoe Grand Jury Rep rt a Public Document at p. 1. Officer Jerothe decided not to subm it a
rcspon e to the report. /d.

15

Second, the prosecuting attorney acted within his statutor jurisdiction.

The district attorney had broad prosecutorial discretion to refer this in estigation to
the county grand jury. In re 2000-2001 Di t. Grand JwJ, 22 P.3d at 924. Because
the investigation focused on whether Officer Jerothe abused the authority with
which he was entru ted a matter of public concern, it was desirable to have the
grand jury serve in its investigative role. In re 2003-2004 Term of State Grand
.Jwy 148 P.3d at 443.

Third, the grand Jury and prosecuting attorney have verified that the
certification of public interest accompanying the grand jury r port comp1ies with
the definition of "pub lic intere t" within section 16-5-205.5( l ). The Court agrees.
The grand jury repott is in the public interest for t\ o reasons: ( l) it addresses
allegations related to a public servant s or peace officer's abuse of authority; and
(2) it in o) es allegations of commission of a class I, 2 or 3 felony.

16-5-

205.5(5).
Fourth, the grand jury and prosecuting attorney have verified that the report
is based on facts revealed in the record that are supported by a preponderance of
the evidence. !d. The Court may not substitute its judgment for that of the grand
jury by reexamining the evidence presented to the grand jury. In re 2000-200 I
1

George I3rauchlcr, the elected District Attorney for the Eighteenth Judi ial District, disqualilied
himself from this proceeding as a result of a conflict of inter st. Peter Weir. the elected District
ttomey Jor the First Judicial Di. trict. replaced r. llrauchler as a . pccial pro ccutor'' and
referred the in\'estigation to the 2015 Arapahoe 'oum. Grand Jury.

16

Dist. Grand Jury, 22 P.3d at 926. In fact, the Court is not even entitled to review
the record of the proceedings held in front of lhe grand jury. /d. The Court is
allowed to re iew "only the report drafted by the grand jury ... , the certifications
from the forep r on and th

prosecuting attorne , and parties' responses."

ld.x

"fT]he plain language of the statute the legislative history and the contrast
between the new [statutory] provisions and the old" directed the Colorado Supreme
Court's conclusion in In re 2000-2001 Dist. Grand Jw-:' 'that the General
Assembly intended a limited rol

for the trial court in determining whether a

grand jury report is to be released or not.' /d. at 928. Specifically,' the role of the
trial court is to review the report independently to determin whether, on its face,
the report satisfies the requirement that it concerns matter of public interest, as
defined in the tatute. ' !d. at 928.
' [M]easuring the certification of the grand jury foreperson and the
prosecuting attorney against the facts contained in the report" see id. the Court
concludes that the required verification has been submitted. Both the grand jury
and the district attorney ha e verified that the grand jury report is based on facts

Section 16-5-205{4) the predecessor to section 16-5-205.5. "called for the trial court to make
findings of fact to conclude that information in the grand jury's report was supported by a
preponderance of the evidence: In re 2000-2001 Dist. (,rand JwJ. 22 P.Jd a/ 928. ection 165-205(4) was repealed when section 16-5-205.5 was enacted in 1997. /d. at 928.

17

that are contained in the record and that those facts are supported by a
preponderance of the evidence. ld.

Fifth, the grand jury and prosecuting attomey have verified that the rep01t
do s not contain material the sole purpose of which is to ridicule or abuse a person
or to subject that person to public disgrace or embarrassment. /d. The CoUlt's
review of the rep01t is consistent with this verification.
Sixth, the grand jury and prosecuting attorney have verified that the report
doe not contain personal information that is not related to a lawful inquiry. !d.
The Court's revie' of the report is consi tent with this verification.
Se enth, the grand jury and prosecuting attorn y ha e verified that making
the report public will not violate any confidentiality agreement or identify any
confidential informant. /d. The Comt s re iew of the repott reveals that there is
no mention of a confidential agreement or a confidential informant.
Finally, the grand jury and the prosecuting attorney have verified that the
filing of the report as a public record will not prejudice the fair consideration of a
criminal matter. !d. Based on the Comt's review of the report, there does not

fact is established b a preponderance of the evidence when, upon con. ideration of all the
evidence. the exi tencc of that fact is more probable than it nonexi tcnce: People r. Garner,
806 P.2d 366. 370 (Colo. 1991) (citing PaJ{e v. Clark. 197 Colo. 306. 592 P.2d 792, 800 (1979)).
The expression preponderance
the evidence' connote the evidence which is most
con incing and satisfYing in the controvers ... and invol cs the determination of disputed
factual que tions, the credibility of witn ses, and the probative value of the c idence adduced.''
llolmes ,.. Gamhle. 655 P.2d 405. 409 ( 'olo. 1982 (quotation miued).
.. A

or

18

appear to be any criminal matter that will be prejudiced or even impacted, by the
filing of the repott as a public record.
In sum, the Cowt finds that the statutory prerequisites for release of the
grand jury report have be n satisfied. Therefore the report must be released to the
public.

CONCLlJSION
For all the foregoing reasons the Court concludes that the grand jury rep rt,
including the public interest certification must b made public. Accordingly, the
Court accepts the report and files it as a public t'ecmd. 10
The Court is aware that a few recent deci sions by out-of-state grand juries
regarding the in esligation of unrelated incidents have triggered violence and civil
unr st. Although the CoUit is an ardent advocate of free speech and a passionate
supporter of the First Amendment, it urges members of the community to avoid
such lamentable reactions.

Some may be tempted to have a knee-jerk reaction

mi guidedly premi ed in whole or in part on the outcome of other grand jury


in estigations or imprudently based on o erly simplistic or uninformed analy is.
The Court encourages everyone to take the time to carefully and objectively re iew

the thorough report containing the grand jury's extensive findings regarding this

10

At the People's request the Court redacts


forepcrson's signature from the public copy of
the certification. Additionally. bccau e the Court agree with the People that. the o True flill ..
sh uld be s aled, it i hereby :ealed.

19

specific investigation before expressing or even forming, any opinions. In the


Cout1's experience, it is rare that the public has the benefit of a detailed grand jury
But a report unread is a report wasted which, like the sound of the

repot1.

proverbial tree that fall s in the fore t wh n no one is around to hear it, might as
well not exi t.

Flllther no matter what opinions may be formulated, or how

earnestly and vigorously they may be held, the must be expressed appropriately.
The C urt i very familiar\ ith Arapahoe County. It is difficult to imagine a
more caring, thoughtful and sophisticated county. It is equally difficult to imagine
a county that is more resilient or possesses greater f011itude. Indeed, not many
counties in America have experienced what Arapahoe County has had to withstand
in the last handful of years. Yet at every turn the residents of Arapahoe County
have shown the rest of the nation and the world their mettle as they have overcome
ad ersity with courage astuteness, and grace. What should be cJear by now is that
no event is ever too daunting for these admirable individual.s. In a time when the
rest of the country i seemingly struggling to find suitable and sensible approaches
to process and react to decisions by grand juries, the Court cannot think of a more
ideal group of people than the residents of Arapahoe County to lead the way. The
Court is confident that these upstanding individuals will once again rise to the
occasJOn

and that

they

will

do so with

levelheadedness, fairness, and dignity.

20

typical

wisdom

objceti ity,

Dated this 301h day ofDecember of201 5.


BY THE COURT:

Carlos A. Samour; Jr.


Di trict Court Judge

21

DISTRlCT COURT
ARAPAHOE COUNTY, COLORADO
Court Address: Arapahoe County Justice Center
7325 South Potomac Street, Centennial, CO 80112

IN RE: 2015 ARAPAHOE COUNTY GRAND JURY

D COURT USE ONLY 0


Prosecutor
Peter A. Weir, District Attorney
Grand Jury Case Number:
500 Jefferson County Parkway
15CR0002
Golden/ CO 80401-6002
Division/Ctrm:
Phone Number: (303) 271-6800
FAX Number:
(303) 271-6888
Atty. Reg. #10017
CERTIFICATIQ!'l_NERIFICATION OF GRAND JURY REPORT

The 2015 Arapahoe County Grand Jury states and certifies the following with regard to the
Grand Jury report issued on December 11 , 2015 .

l. The Grand Jwy certifies that the Grand Jury report is in the public interest and

addresses one or more of the following:


a. Allegations of the mi use or misapplication of public funds;
b. Allegation of abuse of authority by a public servant;
c. Allegations of misfeasance or malfeasance with regard to a
governmental function; or
d. Allegation of a class 1, class 2, or class 3 felony.
2. The Grand Jury and the prosecuting attorneys (appointed special prosecutors) are

acting within their statutory jurisdiction in convening and investigating the subject
matter of the report.
3. The report is based upon facts revealed in the course of the Grand Jury .

investigation and supported b a preponderance of the evidence.

4. The report does not contain material the sole effect of which is to ridicule or abuse

a person or business or subject such person or business to public disgrace or


embarrassment.
5. The report does not contain material that is personal in nature that does not relate

to any lawful inquiry.


6. No confidentiality agreement Will be violated and the identity of no confidential

informant will be disclosed in making this Grand Jury report public.


7. The filing of the Grand Jury report as a public record does not prejudice the fair

consideration of a criminal matter.

DATED THIS

_ __._..___
(I ___
DAY OF .

,2015

I, . . . . . , the Foreperson ofthe 201 5 of the Arapahoe Grand Jury, do hereby


swear, affirm and verify that the GJ;-and Jury report was issued after deliberation and with the
assent and agreement to the report and each of the above listed items (1 - 7) by at least nine
Jury.
members of the 2015 Arapahoe

Jl

Subscribed and sworn to before me in the County of Arapahoe, State of Col0rado-, the
day of l>(lct.'IA#.<..
, 2015.

.:

.
'

NOTARY PUBLIC

I, C,bnr\e>
, the prosecuting attorney !or the investigation that is t e su ect matter
of the 2015
pahoe Grand Jury report, do hereby swear, affirm and verify that each of the
above listed items (1 - 7) is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge.
Special Prosecutor
Peter A. Weir

Cf-1<!

District Attorney
First Judicial District

Charles Tingle,# 1
Senior Chief Deputy Distritt Attorney
First Judicial District
500 Jefferson County Parkway
Golden Colorado 8040 1
Telephone: (303) 271-6800
FAX: (303) 271-6888
Counsel of Record

of Arapahoe, State of Colorado, the

DISTRICT COURT
ARAPAHOE COUNTY, COLORADO
Court Address: Arapahoe County Justice Center
7325 South Potomac Street, Centennial, CO 80112
IN RE: 2015 ARAPAHOE COUNTY GRAND JURY
0 COURT USE ONLY 0

Special Prosecutor
Peter A. Weir, District Attorney
Grand Jury Case Number:
500 Jefferson County Parkway
15CR0002
Golden, CO 80401-6002
Division/Ctrm:
Phone Number: (303) 271-6800
FAX Number:
(303) 271-6888
Atty. Reg. #10017
MOTION FOR ORDER TO MAKE ARAPAHOE GRAND JURY REPORT A PUBLIC
DOCUMENT
On December 11, 2015 the Arapahoe County Grand Jury issued a report stating the
details of their investigation and findings in the shooting of Naeschylus Carter Vinzant by
Aurora Police Officer Paul J erothe. The People are requesting that this report be made a public
document and as grounds for this request state the following:
1. The Arapahoe County Grand Jury concluded its investigation into the shooting of
Naeschylus Carter Vinzant by Aurora Police Officer Paul Jerothe on December 11,2015,
by issuing a "No True Bill" on all proposed counts and issuing a grand jury report
pursuant to C.R.S. 16-5-205.5.
2. The "No True Bill" is submitted with this motion and the People request that this
document be sealed.
3. The Arapahoe County Grand Jury Report is submitted with this motion. The People have
notified all persons named in the report (Officer Jerothe) and have given him the 14 day
statutory time period in which to respond. Officer Jerothe has decided not to submit a
response to the report.
4. A Certification signed by the grand jury foreperson and the prosecution pursuant to
C.R.S. 16-5-205 .5 is submitted with this motion. The People request that this
Certification be sealed and if the Court finds the Certification should be a public
document then the People request that the foreperson's name be blacked out on the public
version of the Certification. The Certification, incorporated by reference, contains
findings which support the release of the report as a public record.

Respectfully submitted,
Peter A. Weir
District Attorney
Special Prosecutor

hades Tingle
eS?
Senior Chief District Attorney
Special Prosecutor
Registration No. 14329

DISTRICT COURT
ARAPAHOE COUNTY, COLORADO
Court Address: Arapahoe County Justice Center
7325 South Potomac Street, Centennial, CO 80112
IN RE: 2015 ARAPAHOE COUNTY GRAND JURY
0 COURT USE ONLY 0
Special Prosecutor

Peter A. Weir, District Attorney


Grand Jury Case Number:
500 Jefferson County Parkway
15CR0002
Golden, CO 80401-6002
Division/Ctrm:
Phone Number: (303) 271-6800
FAX Number:
(303) 271-6888
Atty. Reg. #10017
ORDER FOR ARAPAHOE GRAND JURY REPORT TO BECOME A PUBLIC
DOCUMENT
THIS COURT, after a review of: 1. the People's Motion for Order to Make Arapahoe County
Grand Jury Report a Public Document; 2. the "No True Bill"; 3. the Arapahoe County Grand
Jury Report; and 4. the Certification;
FINDS and ORDERS THE FOLLOWING:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

The Arapahoe County Grand Jury Report meets the requirements ofC.R.S. 16-5-205.5;
The Certification meets the requirements ofC.R.S. 16-5-205.5;
The Arapahoe County Grand Jury Report shall become a public document;
The Certification shall not become a public document.
The grand jury has issued a "No True Bill" on all proposed counts and this document
shall not become a public document.

IT IS SO ORDERED THIS - - - - - - - - DAY OF - - - - - - - - - - - - - -, 20 __

DISTRICT COURT JUDGE