Alex Landau case: No charges against three Denver cops in his brutal beating
Update below: In February, the Justice Department decided not to charge the officers who beat Alex Landau to a pulp with federal civil rights violations. Then, days later, a cop who pummeled him was reinstated at the conclusion of a separate excessive-force investigation.
Although Landau was frustrated by this turn of events, he hoped for better news from Denver's own inquiry. But no: The Manager of Safety has decided not to prosecute the officers in question.
As we've reported, Landau was a nineteen-year-old Community College of Denver student when he was pulled over by police on January 15, 2009, allegedly for making an illegal left turn.
Another photo of Landau after the 2009 incident.
Marijuana was subsequently found on Landau's passenger, a fellow student named Addison Hunold, prompting the officers -- identified in the lawsuit as Ricky Nixon, Randy Murr and Tiffany Middleton -- to ask if they could search his trunk. Landau is said to have responded by stepping toward the officers and quizzing them about whether or not they had a warrant -- at which point they began punching him in the face. The attack caused Landau to fall, but the beating continued for several minutes, with one officer yelling, "He's going for the gun." (Landau was unarmed.) Once they finally stopped the assault, one officer reportedly put the following question to him: "Where's that warrant now, you fucking nigger?"
A lawsuit over the incident was filed in January 2011 (see it below), and Landau eventually received a $795,000 settlement from the City of Denver for the damage done to him. But officers Nixon, Murr and Middleton still have not been punished for their actions in the incident. Nixon was canned in connection with his role in an alleged assault on four women at the Denver Diner, also in 2009. However, he was later reinstated and remains on the Denver police force, as does Middleton.
And Murr? He was fired for taking part in another high-profile excessive-force case involving Michael DeHerrera -- but the Civil Service Commission recently recommended that Murr be reinstated, complete with back pay.
Now, all three are off the hook in the Landau case. Here's a statement just released by Denver Manager of Safety Alex Martinez's office:
Consistent with the conclusion of the former chief of police, the recommendation of the previous independent monitor, the recommendation of the former acting independent monitor, the recommendation of the current independent monitor, and the conclusion of the current chief of police, as well as the separate decisions of the Denver District Attorney and the United States Department of Justice that there is insufficient evidence to make any criminal accusations against any officers, the Manager of Safety determines there is insufficient evidence to sustain any allegations of inappropriate force, racial slurs or deceptive conduct by Officers Ricky Nixon, Randy Murr and Tiffany Middleton for the incident with Mr. Alexander Landau. Other than reprimands by the Chief of Police for failure to make complete reports, no disciplinary action is taken against any of the involved officers.
How does Landau feel about this decision?
Alex Martinez, Denver Police Chief Robert White and Alex Landau at a March 1 police brutality rally.
Photo by Danielle Lirette
Landau's reaction is contained in a Colorado Progressive Coalition release that arrived after our original post was published. Read the entire statement below, followed by a response from attorney Anna Holland Edwards of Holland, Holland Edwards & Grossman, P.C., representing the legal team that assisted Landau with the lawsuit that resulted in the aforementioned $795,000 settlement.
Colorado Progressive Coalition statement:
Today, in an effort to bury the news, the Denver Safety Manager and city announced that they would not bring further disciplinary measures against the three officers involved in beating Alex Landau, nearly to death. Colorado Progressive Coalition condemns the decision for both failing to provide justice and setting a precedent for further police abuse. CPC felt that the city had been making progress in its police disciplinary measures, however, this decision only bolsters the culture of silence that pervades Denver's law enforcement system.
Landau will be available for media at the Colorado Progressive Coalition offices at 1029 Santa Fe Drive, Denver, CO, 80204 tonight. Colorado Progressive Coalition has been working with Alex as he and his family have been calling for justice in his case.
"Today's decision to not fire the officers that brutally assaulted me over four years ago is a clear indication that the Manger of Safety and the city of Denver are not committed to cleaning up Denver Police Department's culture of violence and deception," said Landau. "This comes just two months after a federal judge said that the city of Denver fails to punish officers for excessive force and tolerates a code of silence. This is dangerous for our community and its residents. We are renewing our call for an investigation by the United States Department of Justice on a pattern and practice of abuse by Denver law enforcement. I also call on our community to join me and my family in the call for justice."
"I'm heartbroken," said Patsy Hathaway, Alex's mother. "They nearly killed my son and he didn't do anything to deserve that. They need to be punished." The Law firm of Anna Holland Edward, John Holland & Erica Grossman who argued in Alex's case with the city released this statement:
"It appears that nothing has been learned from this terrible story. The City has unfortunately taken several steps backwards and police brutality remains all too acceptable in Denver. Alex's complaints were brushed off when he initially presented to IAB, still bloody from his beating, and he was accused then of "playing the race card." This determination of insufficient evidence to proceed is simply a failure of nerve to do what is needed to address this unconscionable beating and the subsequent problems this force has had with brutality by officers.
"In litigation and settlement, Denver understood what really happened here and the sufficiency of the evidence. These reviews continue to attempt to paper over that reality.
"Those affected by police brutality have no recourse through petition of government or internal complaint procedures, it appears, and will instead have to continue to take their matters to the Courts."
Anna Holland Edwards statement:
It appears that nothing has been learned from this terrible story. The City has unfortunately taken several steps backwards and police brutality remains all too acceptable in Denver. Alex's complaints were brushed off when he initially presented to IAB, still bloody from his beating, and he was accused then of "playing the race card." This determination of insufficient evidence to proceed is simply a failure of nerve to do what is needed to address this unconscionable beating and the subsequent problems this force has had with brutality by officers.
In litigation and settlement, Denver understood what really happened here and the sufficiency of the evidence. These reviews continue to attempt to paper over that reality.
Those affected by police brutality have no recourse through petition of government or internal complaint procedures, it appears, and will instead have to continue to take their matters to the Courts.
Bottom line, IAB's decision amounts to acceptance of brutality and racism. What is insufficient is not the evidence but the lack of response by government and the continued toleration of these kinds of incidents.
Manager of Safety Martinez provides his rationale in the video below. After that, find three documents provided by Martinez's office -- a narrative, a discipline-determination account and a timeline.
More from our Follow That Story archive: "Alex Landau responds to feds' decision not to charge Denver cops who brutally beat him."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.