Earlier this month, the Justice Department decided not to charge the officers who beat Alex Landau to a pulp with federal civil rights violations. This conclusion frustrated Landau, but he figured that at least he'd find out the results of a local investigation put on hold due to the feds' actions. But no: The inquiry into the assault, which took place way back in 2009, is in limbo yet again. And to add insult to (literal) injury, one of the cops who pummeled him has been reinstated.
"I'd really like to know why this can't be treated with more urgency," says Landau, "and why my investigation has been mishandled since the beginning."
As Joel Warner reported in detail for his 2011 feature article "Black and Blue," 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.
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 eventually fired for taking part in another high-profile excessive-force case involving Michael DeHerrera -- but last week, the Civil Service Commission recommended that Murr be reinstated, complete with back pay.
Murr wasn't the person who can be seen on video beating Herrera while the latter spoke on a cell phone; that was Devin Sparks, whose sacking was upheld by the commission. But Landau says Murr wasn't nearly as hands-off in his incident. "He hit me in the face with a flashlight," he says.
As such, Landau will be at the center of a Friday, March 1, event protesting Murr's reinstatement; get full details below. In the meantime, he has been trying to find out the status of the investigation into the attack on him -- and he hasn't liked the answers.
Continue for more about the Alex Landau investigation and the Michael DeHerrera event, including photos. Warning: They're graphic. Landau says he was under the impression that the Denver Police's investigation into his beating had been completed and an announcement about possible action against the officers would be immediately forthcoming. But on February 11, the Monday after the Justice Department's announcement about the case (it broke late the previous Friday, during a time when newsmakers tend to release information they hope won't get much media attention), he phoned Denver Police Chief Robert White and found out differently.
According to Landau, White told him the DPD's investigation hadn't been concluded, so he called Manager of Safety Alex Martinez's office in the hope of finding out what was going on. But he says a member of Martinez's staff subsequently phoned the Colorado Progressive Coalition, an advocacy organization for which Landau now works, and told Mu Son Chi, the CPC's racial justice and civil rights director, that the manager would not meet with him at this time.
Why not? In her response, Daelene Mix, Martinez's communications director, partly contradicts Landau's impression from his chat with White. She says that the Denver Police have indeed offered a "recommendation" about action that should be taken in regard to officers Murr, Nixon and Middleton. However, the Manager of Safety's Office can't move forward because it's waiting for material from the Justice Department's investigation.
"They haven't provided us the additional information we have requested," she says. "We're awaiting that information so that we can wrap up our investigation. Until we receive that, we're not in a position to discuss anything new with Mr. Landau."
Mix, who points out that Martinez has met with Landau "several times since he came into office," points out that authorities initially decided against charging Murr, Nixon and Middleton. The case was reopened after the $795,000 settlement, but Mix says Martinez needs to see "anything new that would warrant the original decision not to pursue charges to be overturned." And while she can understand Landau's impatience, she goes on, "it's very important that we look at all the facts and evidence in the case so we can come to the right conclusion. Absent the facts from the FBI, we would not be doing our due diligence."
Problem is, the feds have not given any indication when they'll fork over the evidence in question. "We've requested it, but we don't know when we'll receive it," Mix says. "We have no control over that."
This reasoning leaves Landau cold. "There seems to be no real urgency to conclude it. And how is that supposed to make any civilian feel?"
On the subject of Murr, Landau stresses that "I personally feel like he should be prosecuted. But whether he's terminated for what happened to Michael DeHerrera or my assault, the facts are that not only was he involved in multiple high-profile cases over a short period of time, but he's a dangerous officer who's been reinstated. And that should raise a red flag for the community. The community should know there's another dangerous cop who's allowed to patrol the streets again."
At the Friday event, Landau says he and other speakers, including DeHerrera and representatives of the Colorado Progressive Coalition, will deliver recommendations about how to change things for the better in the immediate future, the middle term and the long run. Among them: come up with a mechanism to resolve cases like his much more quickly. After all, he notes, "it's been over four years."
Colorado Progressive Coalition release:
DeHerrera Family to Demand Answers at Mayor's Office/Webb Building
Denver -- On Friday, Colorado Progressive Coalition members and survivors of police misconduct will join with the DeHerrera family to support their call for justice after Corporal Randy Murr was reinstated. The DeHerrera's and survivors of police violence will speak to their cases at the Webb building in Denver and ask questions of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock as part of a delegation that will go to his office.
On Wednesday, February 20, hearing officers at the Civil Service Commission reinstated Murr, the police officer involved in the assault on Shawn Johnson and Michael DeHerrera. Murr was also involved in the assault on Alex Landau less than 90 days prior. Murr was reinstated despite, as the Denver Post's Vincent Carroll stated, "...[having told at] least three different stories about what happened outside a club in LoDo on April 4, 2009...."
Anthony and Denise DeHerrera and Alex Landau will speak at a community gathering of roughly 40-80 people in front of the Webb building at noon then head to the City and County building where a delegation will attempt to speak with Mayor Michael Hancock and Manager of Safety Alex Martinez. After the event is over, the delegation will also look to speak with Chief Robert White at the Police Administrative Building.
During the event at the Webb Building, Landau will provide a narrative and visual timeline of the police brutality stemming from his case that has occurred due to the city's disciplinary failures including the Civil Service Commission's decisions in the Denver Diner and DeHerrera cases.
"Over four years after the modern day Jim Crow brutality that I experienced at the hands of Denver law enforcement, the only thing that has transpired with the officers involved in my case is that they've gone on to attack other community members," said Landau. "Two of the officers were recently reinstated in their respective roles in attacking community members. On March 1, I am coming together with survivors of those cases of police brutality to call for termination of these violent officers, and we are inviting the community to join us."
Who: The DeHerrera Family Alex Landau Colorado Progressive Coalition members and leaders
Speakers to include: Alex Landau Anthony DeHerrera Denise DeHerrera
A community rally and formal delegation to respond to the Civil Service Commission's decision to reinstate Corporal Murr after his part in the Michael DeHerrera beating. Concerned Denver residents will offer support for the family as they move over to the City and County Building to speak with Mayor Michael Hancock and Manager of Safety. After the event, the delegation will attempt to speak with Chief White at the Denver .
When: Friday, March 1, 2013 at 12 p.m.
Where: Webb Municipal Building, 7th Floor 201 W Colfax Ave, Dept 803 Denver, CO 80202 City and County Building, 1437 Bannock St Denver, CO 80202 Police Administrative Building, 1331 Cherokee St Denver, CO 80202
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