Jimma Reat's family sues Denver over botched 911 call that led to his death

Earlier this year, we told you about the tragic death of Jimma Reat, a Sudanese immigrant who was killed after a 911 operator told him and his companions to return to Denver after escaping a racially motivated attack. Now, his estate, among others, is suing the city over the incident, alleging that the call led to a "classic example of a 'snake pit' of danger"; see the complete complaint below. But attorneys hope negotiations with Denver can prevent a jury trial.

The complaint was filed by Holland, Holland Edwards & Grossman, a firm whose namesakes are John Holland, Erica Grossman and Anna Holland Edwards. Note that John Holland worked with Alex Landau, whose beating by Denver police resulted in a $795,000 settlement.

As the complaint notes, Reat was 25 at the time of his death. He's described as a hard worker with great life prospects who worked to help support his parents -- and he's said to have been beloved in his community. He and his brother, Ran Pal, scored three consecutive three-point field goals to help win the 2007 state basketball championship for Lincoln High School. Reat was a refugee from what is now South Sudan; he came to the United States from a refugee camp in Ethiopia after escaping his native country with his family.

This move didn't guarantee safety for Reat's family and loved ones. At around 3 a.m. the day after Christmas, as we've reported, Youn Malual, a Sudanese immigrant and father of five whom Reat considered an uncle, was murdered by an unknown assailant near his apartment building at Mississippi and South Xenia in Arapahoe County.

In January, Bruce Williamson, a bureau chief with the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, told us that the lack of progress in the case was frustrating. "We really want to get this one going," he said. "From everything we know, he was an upstanding, hardworking man just trying to care for his family. And to be gunned down the way he was...."

The frustration continues: There have been no arrests in Youn Malual's murder to date -- and the same is true of Reat's tragic slaying, which is described in the "Statement of Facts" portion of the document.

Early on April 1, 2012, the narrative says, Reat and two of his brothers, Changkuoth Pal and Ran Pal, as well as Joseph Kolong, were in a vehicle near the intersection of 10th and Sheridan when a Jeep Cherokee pulled up alongside their car. The Jeep's male occupants began "harassing and attempting to injure" the four young men.

The men in the Jeep are said to have called Reat and friends "niggers" while throwing beer bottles and what's described as "bottle rockets" at them. The back window of Reat's car was shattered in the altercation, showering the occupants with broken glass. In addition, one of the Jeep's occupants brandished a handgun.

At that point, the statement continues, Ran Pal phoned 911 to report the crime and get emergency police and medical assistance. The call was answered by Juan Jesus Rodriguez, who's listed as a defendant in the case, along with the City and County of Denver. During the conversation, the victims were able to elude the men in the Jeep and find relative safety at an apartment building's parking lot in Wheat Ridge, approximately seven and a half blocks west of Denver's city limits -- and Ran Pal is said to have told the operator that he was too shocked by the occurrence to feel comfortable driving.

Continue to read more about the tragic death of Jimma Reat and to see additional photos and the lawsuit.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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