Jury deliberations begin for man who fired at Jeep, hit two protesters in Aurora

Jury deliberations will begin Thursday in the trial for a 24-year-old man who shot two people while aiming at a Jeep that was driven into a crowd of protesters in Aurora in the summer of 2020.

The prosecution and defense offered closing statements Wednesday in the Arapahoe County trial for Samuel Young, who is charged with four counts of attempted reckless manslaughter, two counts of assault and one charge of illegally firing a gun in connection with the July 25, 2020, incident on Interstate 225.

Young’s public defenders argued their client made a split-second decision to fire, acted in defense of others and believed the Jeep driver was endangering everyone on the highway. Prosecutors said Young should never have fired in the middle of a crowd and that Young watched the Jeep approach the crowd for about 16 seconds before firing the first shot, which they argued was enough time for Young to rethink his first impulse to fire.

“He could have taken many other steps that were less excessive, less unreasonable, that wouldn’t have injured other victims, but he didn’t,” said Tom Byrnes, assistant district attorney in the 18th Judicial District. “He could have pulled a gun and looked at what was happening and decided not to fire. He could have just put it away.”

The shooting happened during a large protest against police violence in Aurora, after the demonstrators walked onto Interstate 225 and blocked the highway. A Jeep driver on the interstate drove through the crowd of several hundred people despite attempts to stop him, sending pedestrians scrambling to get out of the way.

Young, who was in the crowd as a protester, fired five shots, hitting the Jeep twice but also wounding a protester in the leg and grazing another man’s head. A woman who leaped from the highway in the panic also broke her leg. Young fired four of the five shots at the Jeep after the vehicle had passed by him, Byrnes said.

Public defender Andrew Castle said Young didn’t mean to hurt anyone and was focused on stopping the Jeep.

“There is a reasonable doubt in this case,” he said. “And that’s because Mr. Young was acting in defense of others. And that is what your common sense tells you… The evidence in this case shows that Mr. Young is innocent. It shows he did not have criminal intent.”

Before closing statements Wednesday, Young’s public defenders called several protesters to the stand who described feeling scared, terrified and panicked when the Jeep driver accelerated into the crowd.

“I thought I was going to die,” protester Arianna Schwab said.

The Jeep driver was never charged; prosecutors said there was not enough evidence to show he acted recklessly or with the specific intent to endanger protesters.

Another witness, Raichle Farrelly, described standing next to Young after he fired and telling him to empty his gun. He dropped casings over the edge of the highway before his knees gave out and he sat down, she testified.

“He had a shocked look on his face and the blood drained from his face,” Farrelly testified, adding later, “He knew he’d made a mistake.”

Young declined to testify in his own defense.

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