Unfortunately, there have been no shortage of police brutality lawsuits targeting officers and departments in metro-Denver communities during recent years.
However, the complaint just put forward by Kent Lasnik against two Federal Heights police officers, Mark Magness and David Romero, and the department's chief, Karl Wilmes, stands out for the startling nature of the allegations, the vivid pile-up of profanities and the disturbing surveillance footage images being used to support the allegations.
Warning: The videos, on view below, may disturb some readers.
The complaint, filed on Lasnik's behalf by Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC, documents alleged examples of brutality committed by Magness prior to his run-in with Lasnik late last year. Magness has since been fired, but the dismissal didn't take place until after the videos surfaced. Romero, for his part, is accused of having penned a report that failed to mention the mistreatment of Lasnik by Magness. His punishment: a written reprimand.
On December 6, according to the lawsuit, Lasnik was arrested by Magness and Romero, reportedly on suspicion that he'd assaulted a liquor-store clerk. Romero is quoted as describing the arrest like so:
"I get out of the car and I go contact him and he goes ‘I’m just looking for somebody who lives here.’ And I grabbed ahold of him and I say.... I just put him in a temple lock and I say, 'Motherfucker, you do this and I’m going to fucking throw you on your fucking face.' So then I threw him down on the ground."
After Romero handcuffed Lasnik and placed him inside of the police car, he allegedly shouted, "Stupid fuck; stupid motherfucker; you’re a fucking idiot. You’re lucky I didn’t fucking shoot your ass. Fucking dumb motherfucker.”
The officers are said to have transported Lasnik to the police station in the backseat of a squad car, placing him on his stomach with his hands cuffed behind his back and no seat-belt securing him.
Upon their arrival at the station, the suit continues, Lasnik was forcibly dragged from the squad car and dumped headfirst on concrete.
When Lasnik complained about the rough treatment, Magness allegedly replied, "You're out of the car, aren't you?" He's also accused of screaming at Lasnik, yanking him by the elbow, marching him toward the booking room door and slamming him into a nearby refrigerator.
Here's a video originally broadcast by Fox31 in July showing this sequence of events.
Inside the station, the narrative states, Romero grabbed Lasnik by the neck, shoved him in a cell and screamed at him to "sit the fuck down," prompting Magness to comment, "That guy's a dick."
At that point, Magness was outside the cell, but he soon entered it.
The suit maintains that Lasnik responded to the approach of Magness by raising his right open hand.
This move appears to have prompted Magness to start slugging Lasnik.
The initial flurry of six blows was followed by more, with Magness shouting, "Stop resisting" — something Lasnik doesn't seem to be doing.
This video captures what took place.
After the rain of punches, Lasnik was cuffed, with Romero deeming him a "stupid motherfucker," the lawsuit says. Magness, meanwhile, worked out his frustration by picking up and throwing a restraint chair.
A short time after that, Lasnik was tossed into the chair. Magness then grabbed Lasnik by the throat, moved his face within inches of him and yelled, "Sit up."
Once Lasnik was strapped down, the complaint maintains, Magness used pressure hold techniques that use pain to gain compliance, squeezing his temples for minutes at a time and taking "the thumb of his left hand" and pushing it "into the mandibular angle."
The dialogue suggests that Magness felt these actions were justified because Lasnik tried to strike him when raising his hand in the cell.
"You didn't mean to take a swing at me, I didn't mean to bust your face up, either," Magness is quoted as saying.
Lasnik subsequently asked Magness to calm down. The officer replied, "Fuck you, you ain't in charge. I'll calm down when I'm damn good and ready. Dumbass!"
A third video shows the events in this sequence.
The lawsuit also documents what it describes as "defendant Magness's history of using excessive force."
On July 5, 2009, Defendant Magness assaulted Dennis Discua. Mr. Discua suffered a dislocated elbow as a result of the assault.....
On September 5, 2010, Defendant Magness arrested Maria Orrantia. During the arrest, Defendant Magness grabbed her and threw her to the ground before shoving her into the police car. When her legs were sticking out of the police car, Defendant Magness struck her knees with his baton....
On March 5, 2011, Defendant Magness was part of a group of officers that detained Greg Benavides, Katie Benavides, Raul Medina, and Andrea Roybal outside of a bar. Defendant Magness tackled Ms. Roybal, who suffered significant scrapes and bruises....
On August 27, 2011, Defendant Magness assaulted Edgar Gutierrez-Rodriguez outside of his home.... Mr. Gutierrez-Rodriguez suffered significant injuries as a result of Defendant Magness’s use of excessive force....
On June 7, 2013, Defendant Magness confronted Preston James outside his girlfriend’s apartment, grabbed him by the throat, threw him to the ground and tasered him.
On May, 23, 2013, Defendant Magness entered a residence, woke up Matthew Lister who was in bed, punched him, slammed his face into the floor, and kicked him in the stomach.
Of these incidents, Magness was prosecuted for only one — the first, involving Discua. The lawsuit notes that he was convicted of reckless endangerment, but wound up only being suspended from his job for four days, and he eventually earned a promotion to corporal.
The lack of greater punishment for Magness prior to the Lasnik arrest is among the reasons Federal Heights chief Wilmes is also named in the complaint. The document sites "FHPD’s Failure to Discipline, Failure to Train, and Tolerance of Dishonesty."
Look below to see a new Fox31 piece about the latest developments, followed by the complete lawsuit.
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