By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
The Denver Police Department, already beset by accusations that its officers manhandled a suspected car thief who crashed into the car of a rookie cop, is reeling under a new round of allegations. And this time, police officers are the ones pointing the finger at their colleagues.
Internal scuttlebutt has it that Denver officer Brian Gordon--the son of one of the department's highest-ranking officers--stabbed officer Ron Thomas, one of Mayor Wellington Webb's bodyguards, during a February 1 fight outside a local nightclub. Officers say an elaborate attempt to conceal the facts followed the fracas. And Denver City Councilman Ed Thomas--a former Denver cop--says he thinks a police report about the assault may have been faked, or "cooked."
But the alleged victim, Officer Ron Thomas (no relation to the councilman), tells Westword he doesn't even know whether his wound was caused by a stabbing, let alone by whom. And Officer Thomas says that in any case, it definitely wasn't Gordon who injured him.
Nevertheless, the cop grapevine is abuzz with expressed fears that the "attack" will be swept under the rug because officers Thomas and Gordon are part of the department's "inner circle" of up-and-coming black officers. In fact, an internal-affairs probe of the fight appeared stalled until late last week when police chief Dave Michaud, calling the rumor of one officer stabbing another a "serious allegation," vowed to speed up investigation of the incident.
What the cops are calling "Pierregate" occurred in the early morning hours of February 1, just outside Pierre's Supper Club in Denver's Five Points neighborhood. The trouble started about 1 a.m., when several people were bounced from the club following a drink-throwing catfight.
"They escorted us outside," says Darla Herndon, whose younger sister Alice had been in the middle of the melee. "We left, but we came back about twenty minutes later to see if we could find our coats and keys." Herndon says that as she waited outside for the bouncers to locate her belongings, she began talking with friends and blowing off steam, saying how she'd like to hurt the woman who fought with her sister earlier that night.
Unfortunately for Herndon, her remarks were overheard by Philip Kirk Whisenton, one of the woman's relatives. That set off another round of fighting.
"All of a sudden," Herndon says, "a lot of other people started coming out [of the club]. The next thing I know, someone's grabbing for Alice and someone's hitting me, and Kirk grabbed a gun and then he went after Alice." When Herndon tried to stop him, she says, Whisenton put the gun to her head and told her to "stay out of it."
Within moments, more people started spilling out of the club's doors, Herndon says. Among them were a handful of off-duty Denver police officers who'd been socializing at Pierre's. "One officer, Brian Gordon, is my friend," Herndon says, "and he comes out and he says, 'You don't have to deal with this.'
"Then some other gentlemen came out, and a lot of different fights started breaking out everywhere. I saw people reaching in their backs to pull out guns, and I yelled to Alice that everybody was pulling out guns." Herndon ran to her car and drove to the District 2 police station, where she filed a felony menacing report against Whisenton.
It was after that point that matters got sticky, eventually requiring the involvement of the department's internal affairs bureau.
Ron Thomas, a soft-spoken, nattily dressed officer who serves as one of the mayor's bodyguards, is a regular at Pierre's. He says he went to the club about 11 p.m. that Friday after putting in a full day of work, a couple of hours of off-duty work at a high-school basketball game and a study session on his own for an upcoming sergeant's exam.
When the club's lights went on at about 1:40 a.m., signaling closing time, Ron Thomas says, he stepped outside to reconnect with his pals. "There was a fairly large crowd out there," he says. "They weren't brawling, but they were pushing and shouting. Apparently, a fight was about to break out. I saw two other officers [Hall and Hancock] walking towards them and I assumed they were dispersing the crowd, trying to get them to get into their cars and go.
"I caught up with them, and I was moving toward the crowd when this guy comes out of the crowd and pushes Mike Hall to the ground. The guy keeps coming forward, so I grab him by the shoulders and swing him around. The momentum carried us onto the ground. We rolled around for quite some time. I could hear and sense other people around me. I heard my jacket rip." He also says he felt a stinging sensation on his knees and left side.
"I started thinking to myself, 'I'm in a $400 suit wrestling some guy who nothing will happen to because [Hall] was not wearing a uniform and he hadn't identified himself as a cop.'"