Law Enforcement

Denver Cop's Sex-Crime Bust Isn't as Rare as You Think

The booking photo of Denver police officer Johnny Leon-Alvarez.
The booking photo of Denver police officer Johnny Leon-Alvarez. Denver Police Department
Editor's note: News has broken that Denver Police Officer Johnny Leon-Alvarez was fired on January 23, six days after his arrest in relation to an alleged sexual assault. Continue for our original coverage.

The announcement over the weekend that Johnny Leon-Alvarez, a Denver police officer, had been arrested on suspicion of sexual assault was unsettling in and of itself. That such incidents aren't as uncommon as they might seem is even more disturbing.

Our May 2019 post highlighting 365 police officers banned by Colorado law-enforcement agencies includes a slew of former cops who wound up on this particular blacklist because of sex-crime allegations.

The timeline for the Leon-Alvarez arrest affidavit begins at 2:55 a.m. on January 17, when a member of the Denver Police Department responded to an address on North Perth Street following a report of a sexual assault.

The unnamed victim subsequently told investigators that she'd called the DPD last month following an argument she had with her significant other, and after taking her information, Leon-Alvarez "began texting her afterward to check on her," the document reveals. Over time, the texts became "flirty," and on the 16th, the woman agreed to accompany Leon-Alvarez to Dave & Buster's. At the entertainment center, the victim remembers downing a couple of shots and drinking some beers before Leon-Alvarez took her home. She recalled trying to say goodnight at her door, but the officer made his way inside anyhow.

Portions of the next few paragraphs are blotted out in the report, but some clues as to what happened remain, including the phrases, "She was trying to push him off of her, while telling him no and to please stop" and "She said she didn't want to do certain things with him...but he did."

At last report, Leon-Alvarez, who's been a Denver police officer since 2018, was being held at the Denver Detention Center. He's currently suspended without pay pending the outcome of the inquiry.

Darryl Lingle was arrested in 2011 on suspicion of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust. - LAMAR POLICE DEPARTMENT VIA THE LAMAR LEDGER
Darryl Lingle was arrested in 2011 on suspicion of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust.
Lamar Police Department via The Lamar Ledger
Hundreds of Colorado police officers have gone through this drill, as documented by USA Today, which built what it accurately described as "the biggest collection of police accountability records ever assembled." In all, the publication found more than 30,000 police officers banned in 44 states, including Colorado. The database that contains the details about them is searchable — and our inquiry in regard to Colorado yielded the aforementioned 365 names, which we've listed alphabetically in a document accessible at the bottom of this post.

Here are several examples from the report and Westword coverage about Colorado cops who have been accused of sex crimes over the past decade-plus:

• In 2009, former Denver Police Department officer Joe Bini pleaded guilty to accusations that he paid two teenage girls to have sex while he watched.

• In 2011, Darrell Lingle, a former law enforcer in Lamar and Kiowa County, was charged with sexually assaulting a child.

• In 2012, ex-Arapahoe County sheriff Pat Sullivan admitted to drug possession and soliciting a prostitute.

• In 2013, onetime Denver cop Hector Paez was convicted of kidnapping and sexual assault while on duty; his victim finally won a civil judgment against him in November 2018.

• In 2014, Joseph Ellsworth, an ex-Denver cop turned sex offender, was accused of attempted sexual assault on a child that same year.

• Also in 2014, William Robert Metzler was convicted of two counts of sexual contact — no consent, and Robert Michael French pleaded guilty to one count of sexual exploitation of a child — possession of sexually explicit material.

• In 2016, Timothy Joseph Kelly was bounced for sexual exploitation of a child and video with twenty-plus items.

• In 2018, former Lakewood Police Department officer Randall Butler resigned after his arrest for alleged sexual assault.

• Also in 2018, former Commerce City police officer John Reinhart was convicted of two unlawful-sexual-contact counts.

Click to read the Johnny Leon-Alvarez probable cause statement, the list of 365 decertified officers in Colorado, and accompanying decertification documentation.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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