Cop's Excess Force Suspension Restored in 1Up Incident That Spawned a Lawsuit

We should be used to it by now. After all, this isn't the first time a Denver police officer has been punished for excessive force, then un-punished, then re-punished.

Yet the twists and turns related to a July 2014 altercation between Denver officer Choice Johnson and Brandon Schreiber outside the 1Up arcade bar and restaurant in LoDo remain dizzying.

Johnson was suspended in April 2015 for shoving Schreiber down a set of stairs, only to have that suspension lifted on a technicality the following August.

Now the suspension has been put back in place — a decision that follows a lawsuit Schreiber filed against Johnson and the City of Denver in January

As we've reported, the original incident took place on July 26, 2014, outside 1Up, at 1925 Blake Street.

Schreiber, then 29, was celebrating the bachelor party of his brother at the venue.

By 11:30 p.m. that evening, Schreiber's brother was asleep at the bar, having apparently overindulged, and as a couple of security guards were in the process of escorting him outside, he's alleged to have "verbally challenged" one of the bouncers.

At that point, Officer Johnson, an eleven-year veteran of the DPD who was working an off-duty gig at 1Up, took control of the situation, cuffing Schreiber's brother and calling for a vehicle that would carry him to detox.

Outside, Schreiber tried to talk Johnson into releasing his brother in a conversation that ended with the officer knocking Schreiber backward down some stairs with a two-handed shove.

For these actions, Johnson was suspended for thirty days.

Reasons given in the initial report, authorized by Department of Public Safety Deputy Director Jess Vigil: "He makes no threatening gestures or movements toward Officer Johnson.... The video does not support Officer Johnson’s claim that (Schreiber) ‘pushed his chest out in a defensive manner.'"

Afterward, Johnson appealed the suspension, and in August, appeal hearing officer Terry Tomsick determined that the punishment was unjust because Vigil improperly applied the standard for deadly-force incidents to something that didn't rise to that level.

In response, the City of Denver, represented by Vigil, appealed to the Civil Service Commission.

That body has now ruled that Tomsick was the one whose application of standards was improper.

Here's an excerpt from a section of the report, on view below, arguing that Johnson's actions were indeed suspension-worthy. It makes reference to surveillance video, a portion of which is also shared here.
The video reflects that at four minutes and twenty seconds into the video, Officer Johnson, for no apparent reason, suddenly moves directly in front of Brandon and shoves him to the ground. Prior to that time, no one had made any threatening move towards Officer Johnson; no one made any aggressive moves towards Officer Johnson; no one uttered any fighting words, aggressive, threatening or otherwise to Officer Johnson; no one attempted to flee from Officer Johnson; and Officer Johnson had never even given the slightest indication that he was concerned for his safety or that his companions would turn or were being threatening, hostile or aggressive.
Hence, Johnson's thirty-day suspension was reinstated in what is termed a "final" decision.

The lawsuit, for its part, is still pending, and while it goes through the Schreiber matter in detail, its most interesting aspect may be documentation of past excessive-force complaints made against Johnson — as many as eighteen over the span of his Denver Police Department career to date, including nine during the period between June 2004 and July 2007 alone.

The accounts include choking, punching and a slew of profanities directed against individuals who incurred Johnson's wrath. He's said to have told one woman her father was a "faggot" and her mother was a "whore." On another occasion, he's quoted as yelling, "Get the fuck out of my face."

Continue to see a 7News report broadcast last August, when Johnson's suspension was overturned. That's followed by the Civil Service Commission report and the lawsuit.

Officer Choice Johnson Decision April 2016

Brandon Schreiber v. Choice Johnson, et. al.