The driver of a jeep who marched through a crowd on Interstate 225 in July to protest the death of Elijah McClain will not be prosecuted unless additional evidence is discovered, prosecutors said Wednesday.
“As of today, with so much effort and resources, there will be no more indictments,” said 18th District Attorney George Brauchler.
Brauchler said he didn’t have enough evidence to ethically bring a case to justice. At a news conference, he walked reporters through a list of charges he was considering but decided not to pursue them, including attempted murder, attempted reckless manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and careless driving. For each charge, Brauchler said he didn’t think he could convince a jury that the Jeep driver had deliberately tried to endanger people and that he acted recklessly.
“If this guy wants to meet people, he had plenty of opportunities,” said Brauchler.
Wednesday’s announcement follows the arrests of organizers on July 25 and several other major rallies in Aurora last week.
The 18th District Law Firm brought charges against four protest organizers, including crimes allegedly inciting a riot and theft for receiving signs from counter-protesters. The demonstrators face years of imprisonment if convicted and will also be charged by the 17th District Attorney’s Office. Three of the protesters’ organizers were detained in prison on Wednesday afternoon, prison records show.
Brauchler’s decision not to charge the Jeep driver disappointed people who marched on the highway that day and felt that their lives were in danger.
“I saw him look straight at the crowd and step on the gas,” said Rebecca Wolff, a protester who spoke to Aurora police about the incident. “It doesn’t surprise me, but it’s all nonsense, you know? I’m pretty sure that my son, who drives young and brown, would be behind bars by now. “
Investigators are missing several important pieces of evidence, Brauchler said. They have no video confirming the driver’s claims that protesters surrounded his jeep and hit him. They also lack footage showing the jeep before it hits the crowd. Brauchler said the jeep driver maneuvered around a protester on a motorcycle and blocked the entrance to the freeway, but there was no video showing this interaction.
Both the driver and the passenger in the jeep have refused to speak to investigators beyond what they made to the police on the day of the protest.
Brauchler said it was not inappropriate for the driver to step away from the crowd if the driver’s claims that he was surrounded by protesters who hit his vehicle were true.
“I would not have stopped on this street,” said Brauchler. “I don’t know anyone who would have.”
Videos of the July incident show the jeep accelerating on the freeway before encountering a truck being driven by a man who pulled into the jeep’s lane because he tried to slow the jeep down. The jeep then drove down the street, despite a flat tire, towards a crowd of hundreds singing and marching.
Truck driver Sebastian Sassi listened to Wednesday’s press conference and said he was frustrated with Brauchler’s decision not to prosecute the Jeep driver, whom the Denver Post does not identify, because he is facing no criminal charges.
“He gives (the driver) a passport and he went out of his way to do it,” said Sassi.
Sassi said Brauchler had too much faith in the Jeep driver’s testimony on the day of the incident, while ignoring the testimony of several witnesses who said no one surrounded the Jeep or hit it before it reached the crowd. The jeep driver would have hit protesters if Sassi hadn’t intervened in his truck, Sassi said.
“If (the jeep driver) did what he did to a number of cops, he wouldn’t still be on this earth,” Sassi said.
People in the crowd screamed as the jeep approached them and people dived out of the way. Data from the jeep obtained from investigators shows the vehicle accelerated from 29 mph to 50 mph after it collided with the truck, Brauchler said.
The jeep did not hit protesters despite a woman fracturing her leg after jumping off the side of the elevated highway in fear of being hit. A member of the crowd, Samuel Young, faces four charges of attempted first degree murder and two charges of assault for allegedly firing multiple bullets at the jeep. They instead hit two others at the protest, despite Brauchler on Wednesday saying that two bullets also hit the back of the jeep.
The day after the march, Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said she was concerned about the actions of the jeep driver and the shooter.
On Wednesday, Brauchler asked anyone with a video or whoever was there that day who did not speak to investigators to call Crime Stoppers. He said he would not bring charges of obstruction of a motorway against any of the other protesters in the hope that more will be brought forward. He will also not bring charges against Sassi.
Brauchler said the case against the Jeep driver remains open and that there is no statute of limitations on charges of attempted murder. Other crimes have a limitation period of three years.
“This wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction and the door is not closed forever to these things,” he said.