However, the Manager of Safety's Office disagreed, and the officers involved weren't punished for excessive force. Instead, one was reprimanded for her use of nunchakus without taking a required refresher course in their use.
Now, the citizens of Denver are ponying up. Last night, the Denver City Council approved a $50,000 payment to settle the case.
Continue for details, including videos from the scene and numerous images, including the original version of the shot above. Warning: The photo may be disturbing to some readers.
As we reported in March 2014, the Lucero situation was mentioned in a single paragraph of the 2013 Office of the Independent Monitor annual report, on view below.
The references to the incident (it appears on page twenty) were generic. Lucero wasn't named, nor were time, date or place information provided. But a lawsuit later revealed that it took place in late December 2012 and involved two Denver police officers, identified as Marika Putnam and Kenneth Starbuck.
The passage stated that the two officers were called to an apartment in response to a 911 hang-up call. Upon their arrival, they encountered Lucero, who is said to have been intoxicated.
The officers subsequently decided to take Lucero into protective custody for detoxification, but after she was handcuffed, she "attempted to step towards and yell at her boyfriend multiple times," the report states. In response, one of the officers "maneuvered the woman head-first towards walls in a manner that risked serious injury."
This statement is underscored by photos provided by the Manager of Safety's Office. The majority of them show evidence at the scene, including images of bloodstains like this one....
...and this one:
But others capture the damage done to Lucero herself — most graphically this shot:
This photo shows the laceration Lucero suffered on her head....
...while this one....
and this one....
...show bruising to her arm.
The OIM report noted that "when taking individuals into protective custody, officers have an affirmative obligation to 'make every reasonable effort to protect the detainee's health and safety.'" The monitor determined this mission wasn't accomplished when it came to Lucero and "recommended that the officer whose actions led to her injuries be disciplined for using inappropriate force and failing to protect a detainee who was handcuffed and otherwise vulnerable."
However, the report goes on, "the Manager of Safety's Office did not accept our recommendation." In the end, the officer did receive a reprimand from Denver Police Chief Robert White, but only for "failing to maintain certification on the use of police nunchucks." Otherwise, "no further disciplinary action was taken," the report stated.
For a followup post, we shared three videos of the incident. In the first clip, time-stamped December 28, 2012, Lucero and her boyfriend can be seen sitting in a hallway outside an apartment. Two officers subsequently emerge from the apartment, and at around the 1:50 mark, they attempt to handcuff Lucero. She can be seen struggling and shouting, at which point she's forced to the ground and the cuffs are finally attached.
The female officer subsequently pulls Lucero to her feet and pushes her face-first into a wall, then spins her face into the same wall seconds later.
Note that this video, like the others, is soundless.
At about the sixteen-second mark of this video, which captures a location near a pair of elevators, the female officer can be seen slamming Lucero's head into the corner of another wall.
Finally, this video shows a large bloodstain inside the elevator and drip marks on the floor — as well as the cleaning crew mopping them up.
The Manager of Safety's Office subsequently issued a statement about the decision not to discipline Putnam:
"The Chief considered and determined what he believed to be the appropriate discipline in this matter. Pursuant to the City Charter, a reprimand is a disciplinary order the Chief is authorized to issue, which does not require an independent review by our office. Per established and agreed upon processes between our office and the Independent Monitor, in the instance where the Monitor disagrees with the Chief's decision, the Monitor makes a formal request in writing to the Safety Department for an official review of the disciplinary decision. At no time did the Monitor make such a request related to the Putnam matter. In light of the discipline that was imposed per the authority of the Chief and in the absence of the noted request by the Monitor, the Chief's Order of discipline stood. Had a request for official review by the Monitor been received by the Safety Department, it would have engaged in a review to determine whether the Chief's disciplinary decision was reasonable."
After that, the Office of the Independent Monitor took exception to some of these claims in a statement of its own:
The Manager of Safety's Office released a statement indicating that it did not review the DPD's decision to exonerate the involved officer, as the OIM never asked it to examine the case. This is not accurate. On June 25, July 3, July 5, and again on August 30, I sent written communications to the Deputy Manager of Safety expressing my disagreement with the DPD's proposed handling of the case, and recommending to the Manager that discipline be imposed consistent with the OIM's position. The Manager of Safety's Office also participated in meetings with the OIM and DPD Command staff regarding this case on July 9 and August 30 in which the OIM made formal disciplinary recommendations. In those same meetings, the Manager of Safety's Office articulated its position on the disciplinary outcome for the involved officer.
A year later, the case was settled for $50,000. The amount is small compared to some previous payouts, such as the $6 million payout for Marvin Booker's death in Denver jail. But it continues a trend that has resulted in more than thirty settlements for alleged excessive-force incidents in recent years. Read more about them by clicking here and here.
Here's the OIM report that first mentioned the Lucero matter.Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
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