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Former Boulder deputies found guilty of manslaughter in transport van death

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Posted at 8:37 PM, Aug 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-27 22:37:57-04

BOULDER, Colo. — A jury found two Boulder County Sheriff’s Office deputies guilty in connection with the death of 23-year-old Demetrius Shankling in 2018.

James O’Brien and Adam Lunn were both found guilty of manslaughter Friday night, according to the 20th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

On Sept. 9, 2018, the former deputies were dispatched to take Shankling to Boulder’s Addiction Recovery Center when Boulder police determined he was highly intoxicated and needed to detox, prosecutors said. An arrest affidavit showed Shankling’s blood alcohol content was at .352.

The deputies handcuffed Shankling and put him face down in a small compartment in a transport van, despite being trained otherwise.

After transporting him in the van for 16 minutes, he was found unresponsive, prosecutors said.

He never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead at Swedish Medical Center on Oct. 6, 2018. An autopsy report determined his cause of death was “positional asphyxia,” meaning he was unable to breathe due to how his body was positioned.

“This jury verdict is justice. But for the acts of defendant James O’Brien and defendant Adam Lunn, Demetrius Shankling would be alive today. Instead, because of them, the 23rd birthday he celebrated that night was his last,” Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty said in a statement. “The guilty verdicts reflect what members of law enforcement, including Sheriff Joe Pelle, immediately recognized about the actions of these two individuals on Sept. 9, 2018. They are fully responsible for the death of Demetrius. It was a difficult trial, but our team was honored to fight for justice for the victim and his family. We appreciate the jury’s service. They reached the right and just outcome.”

Sentencing for O’Brien and Lunn is set for Nov. 4.