Amid numerous recent claims of inappropriate actions by Colorado law enforcers, several of which were brought to the public's attention via lawsuit, the Denver Manager of Safety's Office issued an unusual announcement: Denver Sheriff Gary Wilson had asked the Denver District Attorney's Office to launch a criminal investigation into the conduct of a deputy under his command, Thomas Ford.
The release didn't say precisely what Ford was accused of having done. But a video originally shared by the Colorado Independent and on view below shows Ford brutally punching out an apparently non-violent inmate. And Ford was reportedly involved in another high-profile case of alleged inmate abuse.
The seventeen-second video obtained by the Independent was captured at the Denver jail on Sunday. In it, Ford can be seen at a copy machine as an inmate sits against a wall opposite him. Then, the inmate apparently says something that the deputy doesn't like; there's no audio, so we don't know exactly what. However, Ford's reaction is clear. He marches toward the inmate, who stands but doesn't raise his hands, and lays him out with a single punch. The inmate falls to the ground, apparently unconscious.
Here's the clip.
This isn't Ford's first trip into the spotlight for questionable on-duty actions, although we didn't realize it at the time.
In September 2012, as we've reported, we told you about a lawsuit filed by Jamal Hunter against the City and County of Denver and individual law enforcers for failing to properly protect him before and after he says inmates scalded his genitals with boiling water and two deputies attacked him.
Cut to last month, when a judge unsealed documents that offered new and shocking info about the case, including references to porn, pot, on-duty drunkenness and brutality.
Those reports, on view below along with the entirety of our June 13 update about the Hunter case, focus on another deputy, Gayle Rumer -- and the original Hunter lawsuit refers to defendant deputies generically as John Doe one through four. However, 7News is reporting that Ford was one of two deputies caught on video circa 2011 aggressively detaining an apparently peaceful Hunter.
Ford can be seen in the following screen capture. He's on the right.
Along with Ford, who's worked for the sheriff's office for six years, Officer William Lewis, a twelve-year veteran, is also in the investigatory cross-hairs. He's suspected of having reported the incident inaccurately. The Manager of Safety's Office release suggests that Denver officials understand how difficult Ford's actions would be to defend, particularly in light of other recent episodes. So, too, do passages like this one:
Sheriff Wilson shares the community's concerns as it relates to deputy misconduct and in March he created four Taskforces to conduct a top to bottom review of the Denver Sheriff Department. In addition to the Independent Monitor and his staff, members of the ACLU, Colorado Progressive Coalition, Ministerial Alliance, Citizen Oversight Board, Colorado Latino Forum, Mental Health Center of Denver, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, Office on Aging, Americans with Disabilities Act and the GLBT Community Center of Colorado are participating in the Taskforce reviews. A public report regarding the recommendations of each Taskforce will be released at the end of this summer.
In the meantime, Ford is on leave -- with pay.
Continue for our June 13 coverage of the Jamal Hunter case, including photos and videos. Warning: A number of images may disturb some readers. 9:50 a.m. June 13: In September 2012, we told you about a lawsuit filed by Jamal Hunter against the City and County of Denver and individual law enforcers for failing to properly protect him before and after he says inmates scalded his genitals with boiling water and two deputies attacked him.
Now, a judge has unsealed documents that offer new and shocking info about the case, including references to porn, pot, on-duty drunkenness and brutality. Continue for details, documents and additional photos that may be disturbing to some readers.
As we've reported, the lawsuit notes that Hunter was arrested on April 29, 2011 on what's described as a "misdemeanor domestic charge" and placed in the Denver Detention Center's fifth-floor pod with a cellmate named Chris, "who snored loudly and frequently defecated on himself during his sleep."
As a result, Hunter requested that he be transferred within the same pod. Instead, he was sent to another one, where an inmate with Tourette's syndrome had a profane outburst in the shower. No fight actually took place, the suit maintains, but Hunter was shipped to another pod anyhow -- and this one "housed residents facing more significant criminal charges than his own," including some who were actively abusing drugs.
Again, Hunter complained, asking to be jailed alongside less dangerous inmates -- but the next pod he wound up in also housed arrestees accused of high-level crimes, including several who were gang members.
After these inmates threatened Hunter, he repeatedly made written requests for a transfer, but to no avail. Then, on July 18, the suit says his cellmates accused him of "snitching and insulting them behind their backs." Their alleged response began when one person put Hunter into a chokehold while another punched him in the face, then grabbed his legs and tied them together with string. After that, he was picked up and carried to a bed, where he was again slugged in the face, resulting in a broken nose.
Next, he was untied, ordered to strip and told to enter the cell's shower. He was afraid he was going to be raped, but instead, he was punched a few more times before an inmate returned with a container of scalding water and poured its contents on his waist, thighs and genitals.
At that point, Hunter passed out, only to awaken some time later screaming in agony, the suit says. But Deputy Gayle Rumer, on duty in the unit, is alleged to have been "deliberately indifferent to Mr. Hunter's safety, by failing to protect him from other inmates and by failing to respond to the assault and burning in a timely manner."
Continue to read more about the assault, as well as to see additional photos, the lawsuit and more. Despite the attack, Hunter declined to press charges against the inmates, fearing that if he did so, his life would be in danger. Instead, he asked again that he be housed with prisoners jailed for lower-level offenses like his own. But on July 31, he filed a grievance in which he claimed, "I have been made an official enemy of the Denver Sheriff Department" and accused one deputy in particular, Edward Keller, of shaking him down.
The next day, Deputy Keller allegedly responded to a complaint from Hunter by asking, "What would you like me to do? Kiss your ass?" After another verbal exchange or two, the suit claims the deputy grabbed Hunter by the back of his neck, twisted his arm behind his back, forced him into his cell, slammed him down onto the bunk and strangled him. Another deputy intervened -- but among other things, Hunter was reportedly tased in the process.
After his release, Hunter tried to reopen the burning case, but little appears to have happened over the next several months, leading to the lawsuit, which asks for punitive damages and more to be paid by Denver and assorted deputies.
At the time of the lawsuit's filing, director and undersheriff Gary Wilson released the following statement:
We are aware of the incident involving Jamal Hunter which occurred at the Downtown Detention Center. Mr. Hunter alleged that he was assaulted by two inmates who were housed in his unit. Mr. Hunter refused to press criminal charges against the inmates he claimed assaulted him and other potential witnesses have not cooperated with our investigation. The case is still under investigation for procedural violations against the Deputy who was responsible for supervision of the unit.
In the end, 7News reports, deputies Rumer and Keller both received suspensions for their actions in the Hunter case: the former for forty days, the latter for thirty. However, the details of the investigation remained hidden until yesterday, when U.S. District Judge John Kane ordered a number of documents to be unsealed. And the information they contain is shocking. Continue to read more about the assault, as well as to see additional photos, the lawsuit and more. An Internal Affairs report summarizing the investigation into Deputy Rumer includes comments from a slew of inmates about what went on in various pods at the jail. The entire document is below, but here's a sampling of the allegations:
• "Rumer was often drunk at work when he was in 3A." • "Rumer would pop doors to allow the fights to happen in closets." • "In 3A there was a lot of 'hooch' being made and consumed and inmates would also smoke weed and the deputies didn't care." • "Deputies were not in charge, but the gangs were in charge of the jail." • "In 3A tier, porters had a lot of power and controlled the extra food, adn they stole others' clothes when they did laundry. States that 'deputies like Rumer' would let this happen." • "Talks about an older inmate with mental health issues that was beaten and the 'deputy' mocked him and told him it didn't happen." • "Claims a lot of porn around, both being sold and given out and he smelled weed in his cell also." • "Claims Rumer would ignore fights and gang activit. Claims inmates would wait until Rumer was working to fight." • "Claims that Rumer was always drinking alcohol from a silver thermos.... States 3A was the 'terror dome.'"
Some of the most damning accusations against Rumer were shared by inmate Amos Page. Below, we've included two documents related to his statements, including the complete audio transcript. But here are some highlights from the Internal Affairs document:
• "Claims he caught Rumer with vodka in a thermos and he empited it into his coffee cup when Rumer was not looking. He claimed Rumer gave him cigarettes and a lighter to keep him quiet and wanted to be friends with him. He states Rumer would drink around him." • "Claims doing business with Rumer, who would bring in porno magazines and he would sell each page for $3. He would buy the magazines for $10 using pop tokens and he would get paid in pop tokens." • "Claims Rumer would let him run the pod and give out violations such as '50 punches to the chin' or 'straight up two minutes,' meaning two minutes with four homies. This would happen in the cleaning closet or the shower."
As for Keller, he's said to have attacked Hunter after the latter called him a racist.
Look below to see a 7News piece about the latest developments. That's followed by four documents: the original lawsuit, an affidavit and transcript from inmate Page's comments about Deputy Rumer and the Internal Affairs report.
Continue for four documents related to the Jamal Hunter case, a number of which have just been unsealed.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.