AURORA | A 23-year-old man accused of shooting and injuring at least two people during a chaotic protest along Interstate 225 in Aurora last summer has pleaded not guilty to a litany of felony charges currently levied against him.
Wheat Ridge resident Samuel Young entered his plea before Arapahoe County District Court Judge Ben Leutwyler May 10, nearly 10 months after authorities said Young used a revolver to fire several rounds at a Jeep that sped through a throng of demonstrators marching on the highway near the exit for East Alameda Avenue.
The gathering that shut down the interstate was one of several demonstrations that took place across the metroplex last year staged to protest the death of Elijah McClain following his interaction with Aurora police and paramedics in August 2019.
Police originally recommended charging Young with several counts of attempted first-degree murder, though prosecutors have amended those charges to the lesser charge of attempted reckless manslaughter. Young currently faces four such counts, a pair of assault accusations and a weapons charge, court records show.
Young is accused of firing an “old school wild west gun” toward the teal Jeep that drove through the crowd shortly after 7 p.m. on July 25, according to an arrest affidavit filed against him. Witnesses said Young fell to his knees after the shooting and appeared “horrified at what he did.”
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 their injuries, though the man struck in the head faced “a substantial risk of death” and disfigurement, according to court records. Both of those victims were protesters.
Police eventually found five empty .38-caliber shell casings in the grass beside the highway, according to the arrest document.
Several people submitted tips to police identifying Young as the man who pulled the trigger in the days after the shooting. Multiple people identified him 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. He was arrested at his home on West 36th Place later the following day. He was recently from custody after posting a $75,000 cash or surety bond, records show.
A two-week trial in Young’s case is slated to begin on Oct. 26, court personnel said Monday.
Officials are expected to hold a specialized, expanded panel of potential jurors the week before the trial due to the widespread media coverage the case has already received.
“I do think in this situation we’re going to need a bigger panel that usual for the jury,” Young’s public defense attorney Andrew Castle told Judge Ben Leutwyler.
Castle also said evidence from the case was thrust into the public sphere following press conference former 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler held in September justifying why he did not have grounds to pursue criminal charges against the driver of the Jeep, 28-year-old Kyle Faulkison.
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.
The lack of criminal repercussions for Faulkison and his passenger, 28-year-old Greg Goodenough, has continued to sow contempt among protesters in recent months. In a video posted days after the incident in central Aurora, Goodenough said he and Faulkison merged onto the highway unaware the protest was occurring and did not intend to strike any demonstrators. The vehicle did not collide with anyone on the highway, per video footage of the incident captured via helicopter.
Young is one of several people charged with a crime after attending a protest in Aurora last year. Leaders from the local Party for Socialism and Liberation still face misdemeanor and petty counts in Arapahoe County, though previously filed felony charges in both Adams and Arapahoe Counties have been dropped.
Other individuals still face charges related to arson, rioting and weapons possession in both of Aurora’s judicial districts in connection with demonstrations in 2020.