Adams County judge throws out felony kidnapping charges for Elijah McClain protesters

The three protest organizers are headed toward trial on less significant charges stemming from their involvement in a July 3, 2020, protest that blockaded an Aurora police station.

Demonstrators march toward the Aurora Police headquarters on July 3rd.

Demonstrators march toward the Aurora Police headquarters on July 3rd.

(Brien Hollowell for Denverite)

An Adams County judge threw out kidnapping charges of three protesters who participated in the blockade of an Aurora Police precinct for several hours last summer during an Elijah McClain protest.

The three defendants, Whitney Lucero, Joel Northam and Lillian House, still face lesser charges of inciting a riot and interrupting a government service. All of them are out on bond.

Judge Leroy Kirby submitted the order on Thursday after a day and a half preliminary hearing in which defense lawyers described Lucero, Northam and House actions outside of the Aurora police substation as a legal and constitutionally-protected protest.

All three are members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

“Judge Kirby’s decision to dismiss the kidnapping charges is a righteous one,” said Josh Landy, a defense attorney for Northam. “It’s the first time these three were able to participate in the judicial process … and they were treated fairly.”

In a statement Thursday the 17th Judicial District said, “We respect the ruling of the judge in this case. We’re studying the judge’s ruling and determining next steps.”

During the July 3 demonstration, protesters used materials from a nearby construction site to  erect makeshift barricades around the doors and parking lots of the Aurora District One police station. They also tied ropes around the doors and attached U-locks in hopes of preventing police officers from coming or going.

Standing in a crowd outside, House answered a cell phone call from Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson, who told her officers inside couldn’t get out to respond to calls for service. House held the phone up and broadcast their conversation to the crowd. She told Wilson they would leave if the chief fired Nathan Woodyard and Randy Roedema, two of the officers who stopped McClain as he was walking home from a convenience store in 2019.

Wilson said she didn’t have that power that evening.

McClain died after the officers violently attempted to detain him. An investigation commissioned by the Aurora City Council found officers mishandled the entire encounter.

House, Lucero and Northam have an arraignment on the remaining charges in May.

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