A truck driver is suing the Aurora Police Department after an officer shot him in the stomach from a few feet away with a metal-filled beanbag round that lodged inside his torso, causing him to lose his career and suffer permanent injuries.
Shawn Meredith, 51, on Thursday sued the department and three of its officers in federal court, alleging they used excessive force during a 2021 arrest for an alleged assault and failed to obtain a warrant necessary to enter the hotel room where he was staying.
The officer who shot him, Steven Gerdjikian, fired a beanbag round that is designed to be used on a subject from at least 20 feet away, according to a letter from the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office clearing the officers of criminal wrongdoing. The beanbag round was from a different manufacturer than the rounds Aurora police generally train with, which do not have a minimum safe distance. The rounds travel up to 184 mph, according to the letter.
“This case is yet another in a long series of incidents in which the Aurora Police Department has ignored that core duty and has harmed one of its city’s residents,” the lawsuit filed by attorney Dan Williams states. “Here, it did so seemingly to satisfy its officers’ misplaced need for control and submission in routine police encounters by any means necessary.”
Gerdjikian and two other Aurora police officers, Brandon Samuels and Steven Evans, contacted Meredith on June 28, 2021, at an extended-stay motel after he and his then-fiancée got in a fight. Officers met with the woman in the parking lot, where she told them Meredith might fight with them, according to the district attorney’s report.
The officers went to the room where Meredith was staying but Meredith refused to open the door or step into the hallway. The officers spoke with Meredith for approximately 15 minutes before threatening to break down the door with a ram. A hotel employee tried to open the door with a key, but it failed. The employee then opened the door by slamming his shoulder into it as the officers watched.
Meredith was standing back from the door when it opened and was holding two metal batons, according to the district attorney’s report. He eventually dropped the batons and came to the doorway as the officers pointed a Taser and a less-lethal shotgun at him. The officers noted he had a pocket knife clipped to his pants.
The officers shocked Meredith with the Taser and twice shot him with the less-lethal shotgun after Meredith took a small step toward them.
The beanbag — which is filled with metal shot — punctured Meredith’s stomach. The officers then pulled Meredith from the room and tackled him to the ground, where an officer shocked him with a Taser again.
Meredith lost consciousness after being taken to the ground and for several seconds the officers could not find a pulse.
At the hospital, doctors discovered the beanbag round had lodged in Meredith’s torso and they had to remove it surgically. He remained in the hospital for more than a week before being released into homelessness. He later returned to the emergency room for more treatment.
Prosecutors charged Meredith with misdemeanor assault in municipal court for the altercation with his then-fiancée, but the charges were later dropped.
Clinton McKinzie, chief deputy district attorney for the 18th Judicial District, determined that the officers did not commit a crime when they used the Taser on Meredith and shot him with the beanbag rounds. The officers asked Meredith to open the door 23 times before it was forced open, made 31 requests for Meredith to step out of the room, gave six commands for Meredith to get on the ground after he was shocked with the Taser, and issued three commands to not reach for the knife, according to the district attorney report.
“The officers attempted to use nonviolent means for a significant period of time before they resorted to the use of physical force,” McKinzie wrote. “Mr. Meredith, by his actions, compelled the officers to use physical force to arrest him. The officers reasonably believed that Mr. Meredith was a threat to them, as Mr. Meredith had taken a fighting stance with two metal batons, made comments about further ‘arming’ himself, and clearly had a knife in his pocket that he repeatedly reached for.”
McKinzie said it was beyond the scope of the investigation to determine why a different brand of less-lethal shotgun rounds was in the weapon used on Meredith.
The Aurora Police Department did not respond to a request for comment or answer questions before the deadline for this story.
The wound, a head injury and burns from the Taser continue to impede Meredith’s life, the lawsuit states. The Taser left scars on his abdomen and the beanbag caused Meredith to lose some control over his bowels. He cannot urinate without defecating, according to the lawsuit.
The pain meant Meredith could not return to work as a commercial truck driver and instead found a different driving job that pays less.
“The grossly disproportionate force used in this case nearly cost Mr. Meredith his life,” attorney Williams said in a news release. “We must never grow numb to this type of police violence no matter how often the story repeats itself.”
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