Crime

Busted Denver Cop Ryan Burke's Priors Include Bone-Breaking Brutality Case

Officer Ryan Burke's booking photo.
Officer Ryan Burke's booking photo. Denver Police Department
Denver police officer Ryan Burke was arrested last month after allegedly harassing his former girlfriend so persistently at an area hotel that representatives from the business called his fellow cops on him. But this is hardly the first time he's been in trouble with either his employer or local officials. He's been suspended twice during the past four years by the Denver Police Department, and the Denver City Council paid thousands to settle an excessive-force lawsuit that named him. The latter was used to help establish a pattern and practice of law-enforcement brutality by attorneys for the family of Marvin Booker, whose death in Denver jail resulted in a $6 million settlement — and the Booker case was recently sent to a grand jury because of new information about a potential coverup.

Burke became a member of the DPD in 1999, and he's reportedly received the department's Medal of Valor and other commendations during his time with the force. Yet he also was disciplined on multiple occasions prior to separate unpaid suspensions for incidents in 2013 and 2016.

The 2013 case is described in Burke's unsuccessful appeal of his punishment, accessible below. The document says that Faithon Lucas, clad in a hoodie, showed up at DPD headquarters, at 1331 Cherokee Street, for a meeting with a detective — but he wanted to wait in the lobby rather than going through security, supposedly because he thought he might have medical marijuana on his person. Burke, who was working at the building's entrance, subsequently ordered Lucas to empty his pockets and go through security protocols anyhow, and when he balked, the officer forcibly placed him under arrest, causing him to whack his chin on bulletproof glass in the process. He also forced Lucas to his knees, wrapped his arm around his neck and told him to "either comply or else he would pass out in twelve seconds," the report states.

As for the 2016 incident, detailed in a decision letter that can also be accessed here, it was based on a complaint from a police department technician referred to by the initials J.A. The technician said Burke had unsheathed his knife while he was in an elevator with him and a detective, among other people. Burke insisted that he'd done so as a joke, but the hearing officer in the case points out that the act may have been intended to intimidate the technician, since the men had shared a romantic interest in the same woman.

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The Renaissance Hotel, where Burke was arrested.
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Still, the costliest item on Burke's record — in the literal sense — is outlined in a March 2008 article from the defunct Rocky Mountain News, a section of which remains online via the Highbeam.com website. The Rocky reported that the officer had been named in an excessive-force lawsuit filed by Chandler Lyles, an arrestee who said "he was fully handcuffed and docilely kneeling on the floor when Burke kneed him in the back several times, punched him in the mouth, and hit him on top of the head with a Mace container." In the end, Lyles suffered a serious shoulder injury, including a broken clavicle.

The case was eventually settled, with the Denver City Council agreeing to pony up a total of $9,500 — $5,000 for Lyles and his attorney and $4,500 to cover the cost of medical treatment at Denver Health.

Back in 2014, we shared a summary of the Lyles matter in a post headlined "15 Shocking Denver Brutality Incidents From the Marvin Booker Lawsuit."

These cases form the backdrop for Burke's arrest, which took place during the wee hours of September 3 at the Renaissance Hotel, 3801 North Quebec Street. The probable-cause statement in the case, a third document linked at the bottom of this post, describes it as a "domestic violence incident" involving Burke and a woman from whom he had been separated for "approximately a week and a half."

The woman, who was staying at the Renaissance, told investigators that Burke had repeatedly contacted her via text. Their exchange topped out at 118 messages between 12:02 a.m. on September 2 and 5:30 a.m. on September 3, and those sent by Burke allegedly displayed increasing anger over supposed infidelity. At around 2 a.m. on the 3rd, Burke demanded that Renaissance staffers "give him access to the property in order to see the victim." She initially said no, but later "came down to meet in person with Mr. Burke briefly." However, their interactions caused personnel to fear "that the event would escalate," and the cops were called, resulting in the officer's arrest for harassment by engaging in communication via telephone "in such a manner as to alarm and annoy the victim."

The DPD notes that its administrative review of Burke's actions will get under way once the criminal case has run its course. In the meantime, Burke is on leave — with pay.

Click to read the Ryan Burke probable-cause statement, his unsuccessful appeal of his 2013 disciplinary case and the 2016 discipline decision.
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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.
Contact: Michael Roberts