Former Colorado deputies get prison for detox van death

BOULDER (Colo.) -- Two ex-cops from Colorado were sentenced Thursday to prison for causing the death a man intoxicated by placing him on his stomach, and forcing him to get into a van to transport him to a detox facility.

Former Colorado deputies get prison for detox van death

BOULDER (Colo.) -- Two ex-cops from Colorado were sentenced Thursday to prison for causing the death a man intoxicated by placing him on his stomach, and forcing him to get into a van to transport him to a detox facility.

For the 2018 death, 23-year old Demetrius Shankling's death, former Boulder County sheriff's deputy officers Adam Lunn and James O'Brien were sentenced to six and three years, respectively. O'Brien, Lunn were convicted in August of manslaughter.

According to an arrest warrant, the man was 6 feet tall (1.8 meters tall) and placed his hands behind his back in a compartment less than 5 feet (1.55 meters) in length. O'Brien, Lunn, and Shankling had to push on the compartment door to seal it. Shankling's leg was then stuck against the interior of the door.

Shankling was not breathing when they arrived at the detox center in the wee hours of September 9, 2018. After spending 27 days in a deep coma, he died.

An autopsy revealed that Shankling died from suffocation due to his position, which was also a contributing factor.

Joe Pelle, Boulder County Sheriff, released a statement Thursday describing the death as "a tragedy for everyone involved".

"I am certain of one thing: this death didn't have to happen. He said that he was also certain that the former deputies did not intend to cause any harm. "I'm confident that we took all necessary steps to ensure accountability and transparency throughout this process. We trusted the justice system to deliver a just result, and we believe that it was.

Jurors were told by the prosecution that O'Brien, Lunn and their positional asphyxia training was ignored and that they acted recklessly. The defense countered that former deputies who were on an additional shift at the same time were not familiar with the van.

Because students had just returned from Colorado, the sheriff's office was responsible for taking them to detox. However, city and university police wanted their officers to remain on patrol.

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