In Denver, it's extraordinarily rare for police officers to be arrested for excessive force while on the job.
Note our post yesterday about Denver police officer Choice Johnson, who has never been criminally charged despite an estimated eighteen complaints against him, with many involving alleged violence and profanities. Johnson is the subject of a lawsuit by Brandon Schreiber, who was thrown down a set of stairs by the officer in an incident captured on surveillance video. For that, Johnson was suspended for thirty days — a punishment that was later rescinded.
Brutality prosecutions of Denver cops are even less common. As we wrote in our recent coverage of Michael Lee Marshall, an inmate who died in Denver jail, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey "has been so reluctant to charge law enforcers in such circumstances that his critics may wonder if he'd move forward in a case featuring a cop captured on cell phone video saying, 'I am going to murder this man with malice aforethought' and then laughing maniacally as he carried out the deed."
But things seem to be moving in a different direction for Colorado Springs Police Department Sergeant Steven Biscaro.
A veteran officer (he joined the force in January 1993) who received the Colorado Springs Police Department's medal of valor in 2014 "for extraordinary heroism at imminent risk of serious bodily injury, the recipient demonstrating courage through voluntary actions in an extremely dangerous situation," Biscaro has been arrested for third-degree assault and menacing in regard to interactions following a crash that went very, very wrong.
An affidavit in the case quotes him as telling 43-year-old Michael Ferguson, the man he's accused of roughing up, "I'm gonna kill you."
The CSPD's release about the bust is basic.
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On December 2, 2015, the department notes, a complaint was lodged about "the actions of a supervisor who had responded, while on duty, to a traffic accident, which resulted in a disturbance."
What happened? As pointed out in a police report, obtained by the Colorado Springs Gazette, the incident took place near the intersection of Enchanted Circle North and Oro Blanco Drive, an area captured in the following interactive graphic. If you have problems seeing the image, click "View on Google Maps."
Sheriff's deputy Chad Dickson responded to the scene of the accident and witnessed Ferguson becoming "unruly."
Among other things, Ferguson allegedly threw a rock at the other driver in the crash — and after being handcuffed and placed in leg chains, he struck his head against a window, causing what's described as a "large gash" to bloom across his forehead.
Dickson and other deputies seemed to get Ferguson under control after that. But then, the report maintains, "tempers flared" in regard to Biscaro.
At first, Biscaro is characterized as merely being "condescending," "scolding" and "short" toward Ferguson — an attitude exemplified by his decision to shut the car door on the suspect as he was yelling.
Inside the cruiser, Ferguson started kicking the window, the affidavit continues. Biscaro is accused of reacting to that by kicking Ferguson several times, yanking him from the car onto the pavement and choking him. Dickson said he saw Biscaro "using both hands with his thumbs overlapped around Mr. Ferguson's throat."
He also threatened Ferguson's life not once but twice, the document allows.
A deputy managed to break Biscaro's hold on Ferguson, who afterward gasped for breath with bugged-out eyes. Ferguson wound up with "abrasions, lacerations and contusions" on his back, elbows and neck.
In the immediate aftermath of the event, Biscaro was put on desk duty — but his status shifted to paid administrative leave following his arrest "pending the formal filing of criminal charges by the 4th Judicial District Attorneys' Office," the CSPD release divulges.
Springs police chief Peter Carey's official statement about the Biscaro situation reads: “Any time we must arrest an officer particularly a supervisor an individual who is entrusted with a higher level of responsibility it is a sad day for our department and our profession. I want to ensure the public that this was a thorough and complete investigation conducted in consultation with the District Attorneys’ Office. At this time the criminal prosecution and subsequent administrative processes will take place in order to address these allegations.”
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Look below to see a report about the case from KKTV.