AURORA | Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler on Wednesday announced that he will not levy criminal charges against a man who drove his SUV into a mass of demonstrators gathered on Interstate 225 during a July protest, or the driver of a truck that later struck the SUV.
At a news conference held Sept. 23, Brauchler said he does not have enough evidence to win a conviction against the SUV driver, 27-year-old Kyle Faulkison, in a jury trial.
“I want people to understand this wasn’t a knee jerk reaction and the door isn’t closed forever on these things,” Brauchler said. “But what I have right now I have revealed to you and it puts me in a position that I don’t think I can ethically, properly move forward using the state’s authority against this Jeep driver.”
Brauchler said prosecutors considered a litany of charges, including attempted first-degree murder, obstruction of a highway, leaving the scene of an accident, reckless endangerment and careless driving, though Faulkison’s actions didn’t meet the legal threshold to constitute any of those crimes.
However, Brauchler said lengthy and in some cases indefinite statutes of limitation could allow him to file charges in the future if additional video footage or other evidence is uncovered.
“There’s still time to do this if we get the evidence that can make a difference in this,” he said. “But as of now, I don’t believe that I have it.”
There is no statute of limitations to file attempted first-degree murder charges, Chief Deputy District Attorney Tom Byrnes said. Attorneys would have 18 months to file lower-level misdemeanor counts and six months to consider traffic charges.
For months, local protest organizers have been calling on prosecutors to charge Faulkison and his passenger, 27-year-old Greg Goodenough, for their role in the chaotic scene that unfolded on the Aurora interstate July 25.
At about 7 p.m., Faulkison can be seen in footage captured from a media helicopter traveling in a teal Jeep Rubicon in the northbound lanes of I-225 near the exit with East Alameda Avenue. More than 1,000 people had amassed on the highway during a march to protest the death of Elijah McClain, the 23-year-old massage therapist who died days after a violent encounter with Aurora police in August 2019.
Protesters leaped off the freeway during the fracas — one woman was transported to the hospital with a broken leg — while the driver of a white Ford F-150 pickup truck intentionally collided with the Jeep to halt its progress. Demonstrators later hailed the truck driver, Sebastian Sassi, as a “hero.”
Brauchler said Sassi spoke with investigators from the police department and DA’s office, but neither Faulkison nor Goodenough agreed to be interviewed by the local prosecutors.
Four days after the incident on the Aurora highway, Goodenough posted a video statement claiming neither he nor Faulkison acted with malicious intent. He said the two were driving from a nearby location of TopGolf to Denver International Airport when they became ensnared in the group of demonstrators.
“Once we did get on the freeway off the on-ramp, we did notice that there was additional protesters that were also not only in the roadway, but also on both sides of it,” Goodenough said. “These protesters then immediately started throwing projectiles at the Jeep as well as trying to get in front of the vehicle with bats to damage the vehicle. We then avoided any pedestrian that tried to get in front of the Jeep.”
In body-worn camera footage shown Wednesday, Faulkison tells Aurora police officers that protesters also hit the Jeep with guitars.
There’s no direct video footage of the collision between the Jeep and the truck, though there is audio of the impact, according to Brauchler. He implored anybody with a video to share it.
“There are pieces of evidence that are significant that are missing,” Brauchler said.
Brauchler said there was no formal police blockade preventing vehicles from accessing the northbound onramp to I-225 at the intersection with Alameda. He added that Aurora traffic investigators later re-enacted the Jeep’s path of travel at approximately the same time of day and determined that it would have been difficult or impossible to see the group of people on the highway from the onramp due to the curvature and grade of the road.
Data extracted from both Sassi’s truck and Faulkison’s Jeep showed that the former was going about 8 mph and the latter was traveling 40 mph at the time of impact. The speed limit on that stretch of highway is 65 mph.
Sassi pressed his accelerator 100% to the floor of his truck and Faulkison hit is brakes hard enough to engage the anti-lock mechanism, Brauchler said.
After exiting the highway near East Sixth Avenue, both Faulkison and Goodenough spoke with local police and were escorted away in a cruiser. They were not issued summonses or traffic citations and Aurora police never formally recommended charges against the pair, Brauchler said.
Moments after the two vehicles collided, gunshots rang out as a man fired in the direction of the Jeep, according to multiple eyewitness accounts. One of the rounds struck a 21-year-old man in the leg and another struck a 25-year-old man in the temple. Both survived, though the man struck in the head faced “a substantial risk of death” and disfigurement, according to court records.
Prosecutors have since filed eight felony charges — including four counts of attempted first-degree murder — against the suspected shooter, 23-year-old Samuel Young.
In the days after the protest, multiple people submitted tips to police identifying Young as a former community advisor in a freshman dorm at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Young called Aurora police on July 26 and identified himself as the shooter, according to an arrest affidavit filed against him. He was arrested at his home on West 36th Place in Wheat Ridge later the following day.
Young was eventually transferred to the Arapahoe County jail, and he made his first appearance to face his attempted murder charges on July 29. He has since been released after posting a $75,000 bond.
He is scheduled to stand for his preliminary hearing in his criminal case at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 6, according to court records.
Protesters have flocked to the front of the Arapahoe County District courthouse in Centennial prior to Young’s initial proceedings.
Brauchler’s staffers have prepared for similar gatherings following Wednesday’s announcement.
“There is a bloodlust that has been building up to hold people accountable for these wrongs,” Brauchler said. “I’ve seen people on social media say this: ‘This person is an attempted murderer. They need to be charged.’ We’ve seen it with the police from the Elijah McClain incident. We’ve seen it from other things — ‘These cops need to be prosecuted. We know there were crimes. These people need to be charged.’ That is driven from a very emotional position that my guess is, isn’t going to be assuaged or mitigated against by facts.”
The Denver-based Party for Socialism and Liberation, which helped organize the protest in July, issued a statement Wednesday condemning Brauchler’s decision. Representatives from the group maintained that the driver of the Jeep had “violently attacked” demonstrators.
“This attack was nothing less than white supremacist terrorism intended to halt the advance of the anti-racist struggle,” the statement posted on Facebook reads.
Last week, prosecutors in both Adams and Arapahoe counties filed a gaggle of felony charges against PSL leaders for their actions at other protests this summer.
Brauchler added that he will not pursue additional charges against other demonstrators tangentially involved in the mayhem, including the rider of a motorbike who temporarily blocked access to the interstate and chased Faulkison’s Jeep down the highway.
“Those are more acts of discretion where I think I could have moved forward but I’m choosing not to,” he said.