Details are still emerging about a high-speed police chase yesterday that ended with one suspect dead, four others in custody, and a Denver police officer identified as Robert Motyka hospitalized after a non-life-threatening gunshot wound. Speculation about what started the chase focuses on the death of an infant in Thornton. As for Motyka, he's among the officers named in a lawsuit over a much-publicized 2009 incident.
According to the Denver Police Department, officers received a dispatched bolo (the latter translates to "be on the lookout") from the Thornton PD for several individuals wanted in connection with what's described as a "domestic violence felony menacing incident."
A Thornton police spokesman tells 9News that one of the suspects allegedly threatened to shoot someone after finding out about the death of a baby, age four months, yesterday morning. However, the gun didn't fire, and the man in question split in a red Dodge pickup -- the very kind of vehicle noted in the bolo.
Just such a truck was spotted at around 3:15 p.m. near 42nd Avenue and Tejon Street. But when Denver police officers attempted to make a traffic stop, the DPD maintains that someone inside began firing a weapon in their direction.
This act triggered a chase during which numerous shots were fired from the truck -- one of which struck Officer Motyka, reportedly in the shoulder.
Motyka's injury didn't end the pursuit; it continued until the driver of the pickup lost control of the vehicle near 39th Avenue and Osage Street, crashing into a tree. Of the Dodge's five passengers, one was pronounced dead at the scene, three were captured immediately, and the other fled but was nabbed a short time later.
The police have not released names or photos of the suspects in the case, and neither has the DPD confirmed Motyka's identity. Once they do, it won't be the first time he's turned up in news stories.
Motyka is one of several DPD officers targeted by a January 2011 lawsuit filed by members of the Martinez family. As we wrote in a post from that month, the Martinezes weren't part of a criminal enterprise; indeed, several are players in a Mexican musical group. On a night in January 2009, however, a group of DPD officers, including Motyka, burst into their home, apparently based on outdated information. Several of the residents were roughed up and arrested in the confusion that followed.
Here's a synopsis of what took place from an ACLU letter to the Justice Department calling for a federal investigation of law enforcement practices in Denver:
The Martinez Family alleged that the officers began pounding on their door shortly after 11:00 pm, demanding that they open the door. When Daniel Martinez, Jr. opened the door slightly, the officers rushed into the house without consent or a warrant. Officer Valdez slammed Jonathan Martinez's head through a window and then pulled him outside of the house and slammed him onto the concrete to apply handcuffs. Officer Martinez pushed Daniel Martinez into the living room, pinned him against the sofa, and applied handcuffs. Officer Motyka punched Nathan Martinez in the face without any provocation. Officer Jackson forcefully dragged Daniel Martinez III from the house and slammed him into the concrete before applying handcuffs. All of the Martinez Family members were criminally charged. A jury acquitted Nathan Martinez and Daniel Martinez III on all charges. All of the charges against Daniel Martinez, Jr. and Jonathan Martinez were dropped.
We'll update this post with more information about yesterday's chase, as well as the current status of the Martinez lawsuit. In the meantime, here's a 9News video of the chase aftermath, followed by the aforementioned suit and the ACLU letter.
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More from our News archive: "Martinez family lawsuit: Members of Mexican band say Denver cops mistakenly beat them."