Alexander Landau police beating: Denver settles lawsuit for $795,000

Update: Denver City Council approved settling Landau's lawsuit for $795,000 during their meeting tonight. In a statement, Mayor Guillermo (Bill) Vidal noted, "This settlement sends our clear message to Mr. Landau and the community that we take these types of allegations seriously, and that we are committed to a process that leads us to just outcomes." Vidal added that an internal investigation into the incident is nearing completion and may, if necessary, result in additional disciplinary action.

As first reported by Westword and later detailed in the cover story "Wrong Arm of the Law," police found marijuana on Landau's passenger, a fellow student named Addison Hunold, during the January 2009 traffic stop and proceeded to search Landau's car. According to the lawsuit, the situation spun out of control when the cops asked Landau if they could search his trunk and Landau stepped toward them, asking if they had a warrant. Nixon is said to have responded by punching Landau in the face, and then the three officers allegedly beat him for several minutes with police radios and a flashlight, with one officer yelling, "He's going for the gun." According to the complaint, when it was all over, Landau heard one officer say to him, "Where's that warrant now, you fucking nigger?"

See below for a statement from Landau's lawyers, followed by our earlier coverage.

May 2, 2011 -- Press Release on behalf Alexander Landau

The City Council has now approved paying $795,000.00 on behalf of all Defendants to settle with Alexander Landau. The City is commended for taking responsibility for this senseless beating and racial branding. The Police Department and City have also agreed, as part of this settlement, that the re-opened IAB investigation of the involved officers in this case will be completed, including as to Randy Murr and Ricky Nixon who have now both been fired.

When Alex first complained to IAB, his complaints of brutality were dismissed and his complaints of racism were entirely blown off without investigation. He was accused of playing a race card by the supposedly neutral IAB investigator when he filed his complaint. The City has additionally agreed to improve its procedures to ensure that serious complaints of racial discrimination against law enforcement officers are fully investigated not blown off, as Alex's complaints were.

Alex feels he can start moving forward again. He also appreciates the strong public support he has received.

For over two years his life has been focused by his conscience driven sense of his obligation to speak out, to seek justice and to right this vicious wrong.

Alex is encouraged that he, along with the others who have recently stood up to expose this conduct, will contribute to changing the broken police citizen relations that have tarnished Denver's reputation and continue to shake our community.

He also hopes the exposure of the facts in cases like his will give all police serious pause before using excessive force, racially branding minority citizens or trying to cover up such behaviors with false and bogus criminal charges.

Mayor Vidal is going to meet with Alex and his family to discuss his ordeal. This gracious action, combined with the City's recent firing of two of the most involved officers here will also assist Alex on his road to recovery and hopefully help our City put an end to this troubling time of unchecked police brutality and misconduct. Alex sees that what happened to him does matter and that something important is being learned from his shocking experience.

John Holland Anna Holland Edwards Erica Grossman

Initial item, 2:59 p.m. May 2: The tale of Alex Landau, a nineteen-year-old Community College of Denver student pulled over on January 15, 2009 for an illegal left turn and allegedly beaten bloody by Denver cops Randy Murr, Ricky Nixon and Tiffany Middleton, may be drawing to an end.

Tonight, Denver City Council will vote on awarding Landau $795,000 in order to settle a lawsuit filed in January against the officers and the city.

After the beating, Landau was taken to Denver Health to be treated for a broken nose, lacerations and closed head injuries -- but not before he demanded somebody take photos of him

Landau spent several days in jail. In the meantime, according to the complaint, the officers involved in the incident "conspired and/or acted in concert to have [Landau] falsely charged and prosecuted for criminal attempt to disarm a police officer." That included attempts to "intimidate and coerce Mr. Hunold into initially giving inaccurate, distorted and incomplete statements" when he was brought to the police station after the incident, with one officer allegedly telling Hunold, "That nigger's not your friend."

A few days later, according to an e-mail quoted in the complaint, Detective James Medina, an officer looking into the case, wrote to the officers involved that District Attorney Alma Staub "stated she would reject this case of attempt to disarm a peace officer based on the facts presented and I would need further details on the incident." In response, Nixon reportedly wrote in an e-mail that he had "spaced" mentioning something in his original report of the traffic stop:

"I spaced putting this in my statement, but prior to Officer Middleton cleaning the blood off of her weapon, I observed what appeared to be the imprint of the webbing of the hand in blood on the backstrap of her gun, I'm not too sure if this helps out or not."

Since the incident, two of the three officers named in the lawsuit no longer work for the Denver police. Randy Murr lost his job because of his involvement in the LoDo beating of Michael DeHerrera in 2009. More recently, Ricky Nixon -- who also pulled the trigger in the 2006 shooting death of Jimmy Orozco -- got canned because he was involved in a July 2009 incident at the Denver Diner where women were allegedly billy-clubbed to the ground and maced.

Denver City Council will vote on settling the lawsuit at 5:30 tonight. Till then, city representatives and Landua, through his lawyer, have declined to comment.

More from our News archive: "Alex Landau rhymes about being beaten up by Denver Police (VIDEO)."

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner

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