Organizations hoping to bury unpleasant or potentially controversial news traditionally release information late Friday, in the hope that many folks already in weekend mode miss the development. A classic example: Justice Department reps chose Friday at 6:30 p.m. to inform Alex Landau that they would not be charging the three Denver police officers who brutally beat him with federal civil rights violations. No surprise that Landau is incensed by this turn of events, as are numerous supporters. Look below for details, the lawsuit and more photos from after the incident.
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, 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. Murr was eventually fired for taking part in another high-profile excessive-force case involving Michael DeHerrera, and Nixon, too, 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.
Last week, a Denver judge ruled that the city could be put on trial for police brutality over the Denver Diner case -- and the officers who pummeled Landau could still face punishment resulting from a Manager of Safety inquiry whose results were delayed due to the federal investigation. But this prospect offers little solace to Landau.
Look below to see a Landau's statement, included in a release by the Colorado Progressive Coalition, with which he now works; that release also features comments by CPC racial justice and civil rights program director Mu Son Chi. In addition, we've got remarks from Holland, Holland, Edwards & Grossman, the law firm that represents Landau. That's followed by the complete lawsuit, from which the post-beating photos of Landau seen above and on the next page are taken. Warning: They're extremely graphic.
Alex Landau/Colorado Progressive Coalition statements:
CPC and Alex Landau Responds to FBI's decision not to charge officers with Civil Rights Violations
The decision by the Federal Bureau of Investigation not to charge officers with civil rights violations in investigation of the Alex Landau beating by no means lessens Colorado Progressive Coalitions resolve to see officers Tiffany Middleton, Randy Murr and Ricky Nixon removed from the force. While the investigation did not find sufficient evidence to prove the civil rights of Landau had been infringed upon, the decision does not vindicate officers who are still under investigation by the Denver Police Department for the beating that left Landau with neurological damage and in shock was proper.
"What is justice? If the Department of Justice, guided by the FBI probe cannot prove enough evidence in such a blatant case of police brutality, police misconduct, and racial discrimination to produce charges against these officers, then I don't believe our justice system has come far enough.
"In 2009, when I was a 19-year-old college student, I was pulled over by Denver Police. When I calmly asked to see a warrant after officers had already patted me down, I was grabbed, punched repeatedly, brought to the ground, hit in the face with a radio, hit in the face with a flashlight, had a service revolver pressed to my head, my life threatened, and thrown into the gutter. I lost consciousness and I awoke to officers laughing at me. I was asked, 'Where's that warrant now you fucking nigger.' I was dragged across the grass and left on a police jacket to bleed. I wouldn't allow any medical treatment until I got photos and, because of that, went into shock on the way to the hospital. My witness was coerced into writing a false statement. I was falsely charged with felony criminal intent to disarm a police officer. Officers falsified testimony, evidence, and documents to try to cover up their actions. When I went to file a complaint with Internal Affairs, I was told to own up to my actions as a man and that it's not always a good idea to play the race card. My case has been mishandled from the beginning."
"I attended the first day of college with 45 stiches, a broken nose, a concussion, and a brain injury. But none of this is considered sufficient evidence by the Department of Justice or the FBI to bring civil rights violations against these officers who beat me almost to death and then laughed about it. Our community is not laughing. After over 4 years of delay I am concerned that this may be used as a way to overlook officer discipline yet again. In my mind and the eyes of the community, these officers will never be vindicated of their actions. Officers who have assaulted our community need to be taken off the streets."
Mu Son Chi, Colorado Progressive Coalition's Racial Justice and Civil Rights Program Director, explained that the community continues to wait on the Denver Police Department to hand out discipline to the officers involved in Landau's case.
"We have called on the federal government for years to join us in seeking justice for our community. Perhaps they will join us some day. In the meantime, we are not waiting on anyone to continue the fight for justice with Alex Landau and others who have had their lives negatively impacted by racial profiling and police violence.
"We acknowledge the work done by the city to expedite the process for discipline and to streamline the appeals process. However, we are still waiting on discipline in this case. Alex Landau is still waiting after over four years for officers to be disciplined. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the recent rules changes by the city do not change that fact."
CPC is calling on community members to join them on Feb. 16 at 3:30 to attend a meeting in which survivors of police misconduct and brutality, including Landau, will be speaking. During the event, CPC will release its Truth and Justice Report, which details police misconduct data collected through its Racial Profiling Hotline. The event will occur at the CPC offices at 1029 Santa Fe Drive, Denver, CO 80204.
"Today, we will call on our community to join our members in the fight for justice," said Chi.
More information about Alex's story can be found here:
Holland, Holland, Edwards & Grossman statement:
We are disappointed to learn that the police officers involved in this senseless beating of a college student won't be prosecuted. Many were hopeful that the federal government would take up the mantle for the civil rights of Denver's citizens where Denver has refused. Alex Landau has become a source of inspiration and courage to many. His hard work has done more to bring light to police abuses than any of the involved government agencies. It is disturbing to think that police and government officials in Denver may be celebrating their apparently federally unrestrained right to beat citizens black and blue. Civil lawsuits remain the only viable way to obtain vindication for violations of civil rights by police. The public cannot rely on government prosecutors or internal audits to end these types of government abuses. Citizens must continue to demand that their elected representatives act and take their cases to Court where juries can decide whether this kind of conduct is acceptable.
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More from our News archive: "Alex Landau beating: Denver cops puts case on pause as FBI investigates."