Law Enforcement

Denver Police Brutality History: 38 Shocking Cases, Millions in Payoffs

A screen capture from body-camera footage of Gregory Heard being tased by a Denver Police officer in 2016.
A screen capture from body-camera footage of Gregory Heard being tased by a Denver Police officer in 2016. Denver Police Department
The lawsuit filed this week by Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP, on behalf of Naphtali Israel over a May incident during which he and his three stepdaughters were held at gunpoint by Denver police officers outside a local Safeway store isn't a standalone document. Filed with it was an exhibit that serves as a de facto history of excessive force by the Denver Police Department over a fifteen-year period, and its cumulative impact is legitimately shocking.

With gallows humor, attorney David Lane refers to it as "Denver's greatest hits."

In addition to detailing such well-known cases as the deaths of Michael Marshall, Marvin Booker and Jessie Hernandez, the material includes summaries of 35 other incidents between 2004 and 2019, the vast majority of which resulted in settlements from the City and County of Denver. Some of the settlement amounts aren't disclosed, but those that have been total $10,294,500 in taxpayer money — and that's not counting the $4.65 million paid to the Marshall estate, the $6 million designated for the Booker family, and the $1 million issued after Hernandez's death, among other exceptions.

Below are the 38 episodes as described in "Defendant City of Denver, Through the Culture and Practices Promoted in its Police Department, Has Long-Fostered and Upheld the Use of Excessive Force Against Denver’s Citizens"; also included are more than twenty links to Westword coverage of the assorted cases.

1. On January 1, 2019, DPD Officers Daniel Felkins and Robert Blanc viciously beat and tased Justin Lecheminant in his own backyard after he drove away from a traffic stop. The officers broke his nose, punctured his eardrum, broke multiple of his ribs, and inflicted a serious concussion on him.

2. On January 26, 2017, DPD officers pulled over Kristyn Stonkas as she parked in the alley behind her home. When Ms. Stonkas and her partner Quennel Steele yelled at the officers, they responded by violently taking down, handcuffing, and beating the couple. DPD officers caused Ms. Stonkas a traumatic brain injury and a torn vertebrae in her neck, and caused Mr. Steele a traumatic brain injury, a collapsed lung, and a fractured rib. In 2019, Denver settled the couple’s excessive force claims against Denver and its officers (before the couple filed a lawsuit) for $500,000.

3. On June 3, 2016, Gregory Heard, an unarmed African American homeless man, was subjected to unreasonable and excessive force by Denver Police Officer Greg Dulayev, who tased him and shoved his face into the dirt while he was unarmed and obviously complying with officer commands to surrender. After tasing and shoving Mr. Heard to the ground, Officer Dulayey, another Denver police officer present at the scene, and the Denver Investigating Supervisor, knowingly prepared false police reports in an overt effort to cover up Officer Dulayey’s grossly excessive force. They thus falsely asserted that Mr. Heard was disobeying police commands, aggressively advancing towards and threatening the officers, when in fact he was doing nothing at the time besides complying with Officer Dulayey’s instructions to come out from behind the bushes. After a sham investigation, the DPD and IAB determined that Officer Dulayev’s conduct was consistent with policy and his training as a Denver Police Officer, and that Officer Dulayey had not violated the rights of Mr. Heard.

4. In July 2014, DPD Officer James Medina pinned Seryina Trujillo to the floor of her jail cell with his knee on her neck. Officer Medina was fired for his use of obviously excessive force, and in 2019, Denver settled Ms. Trujillo’s excessive force lawsuit.

5. Also in July 2014, Denver paid Jamal Hunter a $3.25 million settlement to resolve a case involving multiple instances of wrongdoing by Denver and DSD deputies. On July 18, 2011, Mr. Hunter was the victim of a fellow inmate’s violent attack that was enabled by the complicity of Deputy Gaynel Rumer, who initially received a mere 40-day suspension. Part of Deputy Rumer’s misconduct included failure to conduct proper rounds. Then, on July 31, 2011, Mr. Hunter was attacked and choked by Deputy Edward Keller. This incident was not reviewed despite Mr. Hunter’s grievance until after the initiation of his lawsuit. In connection with the Hunter litigation, Judge Kane asked federal authorities in June 2014 to investigate the “patterns and practices” of the Denver police and sheriff’s offices and suggested they were intimidating a key witness, saying that a Denver police investigation “smacks of a sham.”

6. In September 2014, Denver Sheriff’s Deputy Thomas Ford punched inmate Kyle Askin in the face multiple times while he was handcuffed. Denver fired the deputy, but he was reinstated by the civil service commission. Denver settled Mr. Askin’s claims for $65,000.

7. In July 2014, Denver Police Officer Choice Johnson violently assaulted Brandon Schreiber at a bar in Denver. Officer Johnson tore both of Schreiber’s rotator cuffs. Officer Johnson had a long history of using excessive force, including at least nine excessive force complaints filed against him. Denver settled Mr. Schreiber’s claims for $185,000.

8. On May 22, 2012, Plaintiff Philip White, a blind 77-year-old man, was assaulted by Denver Police Officer Kyllion Chafin at the Greyhound bus station in downtown Denver. Because Mr. White failed to leave the Greyhound station while waiting for his bus back to Vail, Officer Chafin slammed Mr. White’s head into a ticket counter, causing a bloody gash on his head, and applied overly tight handcuffs to his wrists. Denver IAB found that Officer Chafin had neither violated department policy nor used excessive force in his interaction with Mr. White despite significant evidence that Officer Chafin had used excessive force on a small, elderly blind man who had committed no crime. In October 2015, a federal jury returned a verdict against Officer Kyllion Chafin on Mr. White’s excessive force claim, and awarded Mr. White $100,000 in compensatory damages and an additional $300,000 in punitive damages, for a total verdict of $400,000. The City paid that verdict plus several hundred thousand dollars in attorney fees, foregoing their right to appeal the jury verdict.

9. On January 12, 2011, Daniel Martinez, Jr., Nathan Martinez, Daniel Martinez III, and Jonathan Martinez (collectively, "the Martinez Family") filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver, Denver Police Chief Gerald Whitman, and Denver Police Officers Jason Valdez, Robert Martinez, Robert Motyka, and Bryce Jackson. 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. The Martinez family was awarded $1,800,000 by a federal jury in September of 2014.

10. On January 11, 2011, Alexander Landau Alexander Landau sued the City and County of Denver, Denver Police Chief Gerald Whitman, and Denver Police Officers Randy Murr, Ricky Nixon, and Tiffany Middleton. Mr. Landau alleged that he was assaulted during a traffic stop. Mr. Landau was driving with Addison Hunold when he was pulled over. Mr. Landau did not have his wallet, so he could not provide any identifying information to the officers. He exited the car as instructed. Mr. Hunold informed the officers that he had a small amount of marijuana and he was placed in handcuffs. The officers began searching Mr. Landau’s car. When they tried to open the trunk, Mr. Landau asked if they had a warrant authorizing a search of the trunk. Two of the officers then grabbed each of Mr. Landau’s arms, and a third officer punched him in the face with no provocation. One of the officers then yelled that Mr. Landau was going for a gun (which was false, but which demonstrates that police officers in Denver are trained to yell “gun!” when they see one, something that Defendant Motz did not do in this case). The officers continued to beat him in the face and head with their fists, a radio, and a flashlight. Denver police spewed racist epithets at Mr. Landau, who is African American. More officers arrived on the scene and joined the assault. Officer Murr pointed his gun at Mr. Landau’s head and threatened to shoot him. Paramedics arriving on the scene documented that Mr. Landau was found lying prone on the curbside, handcuffed behind his back, bleeding from the head, with lacerations and in acute distress. Mr. Landau was transported by ambulance to the hospital, where he was treated for a broken nose, lacerations, and serious closed head injuries, including a large hematoma, a concussion, and a hemorrhage in his right eye. Immediately after assaulting Mr. Landau Denver police officers began the cover-up. They pressured an on-scene witness to sign a false statement and filed false reports about the incident. The IAB investigation into the assault was conducted for the purpose of exonerating the officers involved. Ultimately, no officer was disciplined, either for lying or assaulting Mr. Landau. The case settled with Denver agreeing to pay Mr. Landau $795,000.
click to enlarge The jacket worn by Alexander Landau  as seen after he was beaten by Denver police officers in 2011. - FILE PHOTO
The jacket worn by Alexander Landau as seen after he was beaten by Denver police officers in 2011.
File photo
11. On November 23, 2010, Jared Lunn filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver, Denver Police Officer Eric Sellers, and unknown Denver Police Officer John Doe. Mr. Lunn alleged that after he attempted to report an assault to Officer Sellers, which Officer Sellers ignored, Officer Sellers assaulted him. Mr. Lunn was attempting to get into his friend’s vehicle when he muttered, “way to protect and serve,” in response to Officer Sellers’ refusal to take his assault report seriously. Officer Sellers then wrapped his arm around Mr. Lunn’s neck to pull him out of the car. Officer Sellers placed Mr. Lunn in a carotid compression hold. After Mr. Lunn went limp, Officer Sellers kicked his legs out from under him and threw him to the ground. After handcuffing Mr. Lunn, Officer Sellers got within inches of Mr. Lunn’s face and yelled homophobic epithets at him. Officers Sellers then released Mr. Lunn without citing him for violation of any law and allowed him to go home. In June 2011, Denver settled the case for $45,000.

12. On September 20, 2010, Rohit Mukherjee filed a lawsuit against Denver Police Officer Abbegayle Dorn and two unknown John Doe Denver Police Officers. Mr. Mukherjee alleged that Denver Police Officers knocked on his door while he was hosting a party in his apartment. One of the officers asked Mr. Mukherjee to step outside. When he refused, one of the officers pushed his way into the apartment and Officer Dorn pinned Mr. Mukherjee against the door and choked him. When Mr. Mukherjee informed the officers that he could not breathe, one of them threw him to the ground, face first. One of the officers stood on Mr. Mukherjee’s ankle and rocked back and forth. Once Mr. Mukherjee was restrained, the officers pushed him face first on the carpeted floor, causing contusions to his face. Mr. Mukherjee’s guests then began recording the use of excessive force with their cell phones, at which point Officer Dorn took the cell phones without permission and placed them in a bowl of water in the kitchen in order to destroy the photographic and video evidence of the police misconduct. While Mr. Mukherjee was still restrained, the other officers stepped on and kneed Mr. Mukherjee’s face and bent his fingers backwards as far as they could without breaking them. While escorting Mr. Mukherjee out of his apartment, the officers slammed his head into the hallways walls and the elevator wall. Mr. Mukherjee’s injuries included jaw injuries, bruises, hand and knee pain, lacerations, knee contusion, hand sprain, and nerve damage. The case was settled in 2011 for an undisclosed amount of money.

13. In August 2010, Denver paid Chad Forte $22,500 to settle a lawsuit resulting from Denver Police Officer Kenneth Johnson’s use of excessive force. After Mr. Forte allegedly jaywalked, Officer Johnson followed him into his apartment building and jumped him from behind, leaving him with facial injuries.

14. On July 1, 2010, Robert Duran filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver and Denver Sheriff’s Deputy Steven Koehler. Mr. Duran alleged that, while he was waiting unescorted next to an elevator in the Denver County Jail as directed, Deputy Koehler approached him. Without warning or provocation, Deputy Koehler slammed Mr. Duran into the elevator wall. Deputy Koehler then dragged Mr. Duran approximately 10 feet down the hallway. While Mr. Duran was handcuffed, Deputy Koehler kicked him all over his body and face. Mr. Duran was taken to the hospital by ambulance. Mr. Duran’s injuries included scalp lacerations, bruised ribs, chest contusions, and a closed head injury. Mr. Duran prevailed in a jury trial and was awarded $40,000 in compensatory damages for physical and mental injury plus prejudgment interest, and over $217,000 in attorney fees.

15. In June 2010, Tyler Mustard filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver and Denver Police Officers Michael Morelock and Kimberly Thompson. Mr. Mustard alleged that Officer Morelock chased him on foot, tackled him to the ground, and beat him in the head, neck, and body. The Officers alleged that Mr. Mustard was spray painting a van and assaulted an officer; the criminal case against Mr. Mustard was dismissed. Denver City Council agreed to settle the case for $117,000.

16. In June 2010, John Crespin filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver and Denver Police Officers Steven Castro, Todd Allum, Eric Sellers, and Joey Gasca. According to the lawsuit and media accounts, the officers followed 17-year-old Crespin home after he witnessed them using excessive force on a group of kids. Witnesses saw the officers kick Crespin’s legs out from under him, use a chokehold on him, cuff him, and beat him with police batons for 15-20 minutes. This case was settled in 2012 for an undisclosed amount of money.
17. In May 2010, Denver settled a lawsuit filed by Eric Winfield for $40,000. Mr. Winfield alleged that he was severely beaten by Denver Police Officers Antonio Milow, Thomas Johnston, and Glen Martin while he was making his way through LoDo crowds after a 2007 World Series game. Mr. Winfield’s injuries included chipped teeth, permanent scars, and nerve damage in his hands.

18. On March 19, 2010, James D. Moore filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver and Denver Police Officers Shawn Miller and John Robledo. Mr. Moore alleged that Officers Miller and Robledo arrived at his apartment complex in response to a 9-1-1 call from his neighbor reporting a noise coming from Mr. Moore’s apartment. When the officers arrived, Mr. Moore and his girlfriend were standing outside of his apartment. After instructing Mr. Moore, whose hands were not in his pockets, to remove his hands from his pockets, the officers tackled Mr. Moore from behind and struck him on the head without provocation or warning. While he was on the ground, Mr. Moore was beaten so brutally that he lost consciousness and his heart stopped. CPR had to be administered to save his life. The beating continued even after Mr. Moore was restrained, despite his repeated insistence that the officers had “the wrong guy.” Mr. Moore suffered debilitating injuries as a result of his assault. He had to undergo back surgery and months of physical rehabilitation, and he now walks with a cane and cannot stand up for more than ten minutes without having to sit or lie down due to pain. Denver paid Mr. Moore $860,000 to settle the case in May 2015.

19. On March 16, 2010, Mark Ashford was walking his dogs when he witnessed Denver Police Officers pull over a driver for allegedly going through a stop sign. When Mr. Ashford informed the driver that he would be willing to testify that he saw the driver come to a complete stop, the officers focused on Mr. Ashford. When he began taking pictures of the scene, the officers attempted to wrestle the camera from Mr. Ashford, pushing, grabbing, and attempting to punch him to get him to the ground. Mr. Ashford was charged with interference and resistance, but the charges were later dismissed. Mr. Ashford was transported from the scene by ambulance. He subsequently filed an excessive force complaint with the DPD. In June 2011, Denver settled the case for $35,000.

20. In September 2009, Denver settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $225,000 to the family of Alberto Romero, who died after being repeatedly tased and beaten with impact weapons by police when he was arrested wearing only boxer shorts. Before he died, Mr. Romero suffered eight broken ribs and had his tongue split open from the use of excessive force.

21. On August 10, 2009, Danvis Smith filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver, Denver Police Chief Gerald Whitman, Denver Manager of Safety Alvin LaCabe, and Denver Police Officer Joseph P. Flynn. Mr. Smith alleged that he was involved in an altercation with Officer Flynn, who was working on foot in the Denver International Airport parking garage. Officer Flynn reached through the driver’s side window and struck Mr. Smith in the mouth with his elbow. Officer Flynn then pulled Mr. Smith out of the car by his right arm and handcuffed Mr. Smith in an awkward position, with his arms lifted high in the air beyond the normal range of motion. Mr. Smith was charged with assault, but all charges against him were subsequently dropped. Mr. Smith’s injuries included a torn rotator cuff, a torn biceps tendon, and chronic back pain. The case was settled for an unknown amount.

22. On August 7, 2009, James B. Bouchard filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver and Denver Police Officers M. Whetstone and K. Jiminez. Mr. Bouchard alleged that the officers arrived at his house in response to a call by Mr. Bouchard’s former girlfriend, who wanted to retrieve her personal belongings from his house. When Mr. Bouchard refused to allow the officers to enter his home without a warrant, the officers forced their way in and used a nightstick to restrain Mr. Bouchard in his own home. He was then shoved into a wall and handcuffed. Mr. Bouchard’s resulting injuries included a torn rotator cuff and bruises, contusions, and other injuries to his upper torso, face, and head. The case settled before trial.

23. On July 19, 2009, multiple Denver police officers assaulted four women outside of the Denver Diner. None of the women had committed, or were accused of committing, any crime and, in fact, the officers had been called because one of the women they ended up brutally assaulting was the victim of an assault in the diner’s bathroom. Police maced all of the women, and further brutalized two of the women while they were handcuffed. After the incident, Denver initiated a cover-up of the brutality and excessive force by prosecuting the women. Upon information and belief, neither officer was disciplined. Certainly, neither officer was fired or criminally prosecuted. The City of Denver paid $360,000 to settle the claims.
click to enlarge HALO camera screen captures showing four women being roughed up by police at the Denver Diner in 2009. - DENVER POLICE DEPARTMENT
HALO camera screen captures showing four women being roughed up by police at the Denver Diner in 2009.
Denver Police Department
24. On October 16, 2009, Wayne C. Rose filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver, Denver Police Chief Gerald R. Whitman, Detective Mark S. Woodward, and unidentified John Doe Police Officers. Mr. Rose alleged that, while fleeing police unarmed, he was knocked to the ground by an officer on foot and then run over by an officer on a police motorcycle. The impact of the motorcycle knocked Mr. Rose unconscious, and Detective Woodward then handcuffed Mr. Rose’s hands behind his back. Detective Woodward then picked Mr. Rose up by his arms and dropped him onto the pavement two or three times, causing his face and body to strike the pavement several times. Officer Woodward and the unidentified John Doe Officers then beat and kicked Mr. Rose repeatedly. Mr. Rose’s injuries resulting from the officers’ use of excessive force included a broken arm that required multiple surgeries. The case was settled for an unknown amount.

25. On June 30, 2009, James R. Watkins filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver and Denver Police Officers John Ruddy and Randy Penn. Mr. Watkins alleged that, when he noticed he was being followed by the officers, he reached for his cell phone while asking them if they were going to beat him up. The officers responded by lunging toward Mr. Watkins and hitting him in the face with their closed fists and elbows. They continued beating him after he was on the ground and under police control. Mr. Watkins had to be taken by ambulance to Denver Health Medical Center because he was bleeding profusely as a result of the officers’ use of excessive force. He was initially charged with Assault in the Second Degree, but all charges against him were dropped. Denver paid Mr. Watkins $20,000 to settle the lawsuit.

26. On June 30, 2009, Michael DeHerrera filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver and Denver Police Officers Devin Sparks, A. Jaramillo, and R. Murr. Mr. DeHerrera alleged that, while he was using his cell phone to inform his father, a Pueblo police officer, that the Denver Police Officers were assaulting his friend, the officers assaulted him. Officer Sparks used an arm bar takedown to force Mr. DeHerrera face first onto the sidewalk. Once Mr. DeHerrera was on the ground, Officer Sparks used a sap impact weapon repeatedly on Mr. DeHerrera’s body, and other officers struck him in the face multiple times. Mr. DeHerrera had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance, and his injuries included head trauma and facial contusions. This incident was captured on video. Despite the aggravated circumstances, the officers were only very lightly disciplined. Since the case received considerable publicity and public protest, the DPD reopened an internal affairs investigation into the incident, which resulted in a $17,500 settlement. Although Officers Sparks and Murr were briefly terminated by the then Manager of Safety based upon their excessive force and falsification of official reports, Denver decided to reinstate both of them to employment.

27. On June 30, 2009, Shawn Kyeone Johnson filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver and Denver Police Officers Devin Sparks, A. Jaramillo, and R. Murr. Mr. Johnson was involved in the altercation with Denver Police that resulted in Mr. DeHerrera’s lawsuit. Mr. Johnson alleged that, as he was being assaulted by a club bouncer, three Denver Police Officers joined in the assault, striking him in the face with elbows and closed fists even after he was under police control. Mr. Johnson suffered severe injuries, including head trauma and facial contusions, and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. In August 2010, Denver settled the case for $15,500.

28. On May 4, 2009, Jason Anthony Graber filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver and Denver Police Officers Miller, Davis, and two other unknown John Doe Officers. Mr. Graber alleged that, as he was crossing the 16th Street Mall at Market Street, a police officer in a marked car yelled out his window, “dumbass!” The police car then pulled up next to Mr. Graber, his brother, and his wife, and asked if they needed assistance. Mr. Graber responded that they did not need assistance, but that he did not appreciate being called a dumbass. The officers then exited their vehicle and one of them tackled Mr. Graber from behind. He was grabbed by the neck, and his legs were kicked out from under him. He fell down, slamming his knee and elbow onto the concrete. Mr. Graber was arrested for public intoxication, but a breathalyzer test showed a blood alcohol content of 0.036, well below the legal limit, and he was released. X-rays to Mr. Graber’s leg showed lipohemarthrosis and a possible hairline fracture. Mr. Graber remained in a leg brace for many months after the incident. Judge Kane determined that Denver had improperly impeded appropriate discovery in this case by refusing to produce documents regarding previous uses of force by Denver law enforcement personnel. The case was settled for $225,000 in 2011.

29. On April 30, 2009, John Stephen Heaney filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver and Denver Police Officers James Costigan, Michael Cordova, Noel Ikeda, Luke Palmitere, and Daniel Steele. Mr. Heaney alleged that, while he was riding his bicycle near Coors Field on opening day of the baseball season, he was attacked by undercover police officers, who did not identify themselves as law enforcement agents. He was placed into a chokehold and forcibly brought to the ground, where he was punched in the head repeatedly. One of the officers grabbed him by the hair and slammed his face into the pavement, breaking two of his teeth. As a result of the excessive force used against him, Mr. Heaney also suffered severe bruising on his hands, knees, arms, and legs, as well as other injuries requiring surgery. The case was resolved by the two parties.

30. In January 2009, Denver paid $100,000 to Trudy Trout to settle a lawsuit that arose out of Denver Police Officer Nicholas Rocco-McKee’s use of excessive force. Officer Rocco-McKee shoved Ms. Trout to the ground, causing her to break her wrist. Despite the fact that the encounter was caught on video, Officer Rocco-McKee lied on his report, stating that Ms. Trout tripped over her own high heeled shoes, which she was not wearing. Officer Rocco-McKee was not disciplined for the use of force or for lying on his report.

31. In 2008, Denver paid $885,000 to settle a lawsuit brought in response to an incident in which Denver Police Officers Charles Porter, Luis Rivera, and Cameron Moerman used excessive force against Juan Vasquez, a 16 year-old boy. Mr. Vasquez was severely injured with a lacerated liver and broken ribs after one of the officers used a fence as leverage to jump up and down on the boy’s back while he lay prone on the pavement.

32. On June 12, 2007, Ross Edward Smith filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver and Denver Police Officers Jarrod Tinnin and Mark Sutton. Mr. Smith alleged that while he was walking down the 16th Street Mall as part of a protest against the Iraq war, he was approached by Officer Tinnin. Officer Tinnin had dismounted his motorcycle and walked up to Mr. Smith and punched him in the face with a closed fist, throwing him to the pavement. Officer Sutton then joined Officer Tinnin in tackling and beating Mr. Smith. Officer Tinnin pushed Mr. Smith’s face into the pavement while Officer Sutton kneeled on Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith was charged with interference, but all charges against him were dropped. As a result of the excessive force used against him, Mr. Smith suffered injuries and abrasions to his face, arms, hands, neck, and back, and aggravation of his Parkinson’s Disease, causing severe and uncontrollable tremors. The case was settled for an unknown amount.

33. On August 11, 2006, Chandler Lyles filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver and Denver Police Officer Ryan Burke. Mr. Lyles alleged that Officer Burke came to his home to investigate a claim that Mr. Lyles’s mother was suicidal. Officer Burke ordered Mr. Lyles to sit on a sofa in the living room, and Mr. Lyles complied. Then, without provocation or warning, Officer Burke tackled Mr. Lyles, forcing him to the ground and handcuffing him. As a result of the excessive force used by Officer Burke, Mr. Lyles suffered injuries that included a broken right clavicle. The case was settled for an unknown amount.

34. On April 3, 2006, Hirut Berhanmeskel filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver and Denver Police Officer Gilberto Romero. Ms. Berhanmeskel alleged that, while she was attempting to resolve a parking ticket dispute at the Denver Parking Ticket Referee’s office, she was approached by Officer Romero. Officer Romero, apparently upset that Ms. Berhanmeskel was crying about her inability to resolve her parking ticket issue, grabbed Ms. Berhanmeskel’s arm violently and roughly twisted it behind her back. He slammed her against the wall and handcuffed her without even warning her that he was placing her under arrest. Ms. Berhanmeskel suffered a broken wrist as a result of the excessive force used by Officer Romero. The case was settled for an unknown amount.

35. On November 21, 2005, David Nettles filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver, Denver Police Chief Gerald Whitman, and Denver Police Officers Carlette Havard, Michael Nuanes, Jr., Damian Naranjo, and Zachary Phillips. Mr. Nettles alleged that the officers, while responding to a domestic violence call across the street from Mr. Nettles’s house, decided to apprehend Mr. Nettles. In effectuating the unlawful arrest of Mr. Nettles, one of the officers began punching him in the ribs, while another used nunchucks on Mr. Nettles’ ankle, causing him to fall to the ground. While Mr. Nettles was on the ground, another officer kicked him in the head at least three times. One or more officers jumped onto Mr. Nettles’ back, yelling, “when we give you an order, you obey it!” Another officer began punching Mr. Nettles in the back of the head, yelling, “you did it to your own damn self!” While the officers were attempting to handcuff Mr. Nettles’ hands behind his back, he heard his shoulder snap. After he was handcuffed, the officers continued hitting him in the head and kicking him in the back. Mr. Nettles’ injuries included a severe shoulder injury and bruising to his ribs, arms, left elbow, and knees. The case was settled for an unknown amount.

36. On August 5, 2005, Quincy Michael Shannon filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, and Denver Police Officers Thomas McKibben and Chan Thanong. Mr. Shannon alleged that, while he and three friends were waiting in their car in a parking lot, they were approached by an officer who told them they could wait five more minutes for their friends to come out of a nightclub, and then they would have to move their car. Another officer then approached the car and told them to move. The driver attempted to move the car, but the parking lot was full of cars. A third officer then approached the car and sprayed mace or pepper spray into the driver’s face. The driver tried again to move the car but was unable to. Another officer then approached and sprayed the other occupants of the car with mace or pepper spray. All of the passengers then exited the car, which was filling up with fumes from the spray. Mr. Shannon asked Officer McKibben how they were supposed to move the vehicle when the parking lot was full, and in response Officer McKibben sprayed him in the face again. Mr. Shannon then walked away and dialed 911 to report the incident. Officer McKibben overheard Mr. Shannon describing him on the phone and sprayed him again. When Mr. Shannon turned away, Officer McKibben grabbed Mr. Shannon’s arm and bent it behind him. Officer McKibben then kicked Mr. Shannon’s feet out from under him and shoved his face into the pavement. Officer McKibben then grabbed both of Mr. Shannon’s arms and one leg, handcuffing his hands behind his back over his ankle. Officers McKibben and Officer Thanong then picked Mr. Shannon up and sprayed him in the face again. Mr. Shannon suffered cuts and scrapes to his face, resulting in a permanent scar. The case was settled for an unknown amount.

37. On December 6, 2004, Richard Rra-Shada filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Denver, Denver Police Officers Dennis Bedenbender and Shanna Michael, and Robert A. Kaser. Mr. Rra-Shada alleged that Officer Bedenbender struck him with his police vehicle. When Mr. Rra-Shada responded with a profanity, Officer Bedenbender got out of his police vehicle, approached Mr. Rra-Shada, and clipped his legs from underneath him, causing him to fall head-first onto the pavement. Officer Michael then hit Mr. Rra-Shada with her nightstick and kicked him repeatedly in his torso. At the same time, Officer Bedenbender was punching Mr. Rra-Shada in the head with closed fists. Mr. Rra-Shada’s injuries included head and brain trauma, as well as injuries to his shoulder, wrist, back, ribcage, and abdomen. He also began suffering seizures after the incident. The case was settled for an unknown amount.

38. Also in 2004, Denver paid Terrill Johnson $75,000 to settle a lawsuit against the City, Denver Police Chief Gerald Whitman, and Denver Police Officers Troy Ortega, Louis A. Estrada, Perry Speelman, Richard Eberharter, Randy Yoder, and Danny Perez. Mr. Johnson alleged that as he was driving home from his job at Denver International Airport, he noticed he was being followed closely by a Denver Police patrol car. The officers in the car followed him to his residence. He went into his home, and when he went back outside to take out the garbage, the officers, still in their patrol car, were shining a spotlight into his car, which he had parked in front of the house. As the officers reversed the patrol car, they slammed into Mr. Johnson’s wife’s car. Mr. Johnson approached his wife’s car to inspect the damage, and the officers exited the patrol car with their weapons drawn. They instructed Mr. Johnson, who was not armed, to throw down his weapon. Additional officers arrived at the scene, continuing to instruct Mr. Johnson to drop his weapon. He removed his shirt and raised his hands into the air to show the officers that he was not armed. The officers then rushed toward Mr. Johnson, slammed him onto a patrol car, punched him, forcibly subdued him while handcuffing him, and threw him into the patrol car, using racial slurs the entire time. Mr. Johnson was charged with two minor traffic offenses and interference; all charges against him were dropped.

Click to read the complete Killmer, Lane & Newman document outlining Denver's police brutality history between 2004 and 2019.
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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.
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