Like the Israel suit, this one was filed by Denver-based Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP. And it's also illustrated by shocking video in which the target of rough law enforcement action is black: Malow Mayek, who was just seventeen during the summer of 2018, when he suffered what the filing describes as "a critical head injury, a fractured nose, and fractures of his right tibia and right fibula" after Rodarte struck him six times with a metal baton.
Attorney David Lane doesn't seem winded by the one-two punch aimed at the Denver Police Department in recent days. "As long as the cops keep beating people, we will continue to be busy," he says.
Like McClain, "Mr. Mayek was doing nothing wrong," Lane points out. "There was no crime he was accused of committing. There was no anything, and unless the police have a reasonable suspicion that you've committed a crime, you're allowed to ignore them and just walk away. So when he refused to obey them, the officers had no legal justification to lay a finger on him."
As Lane summarizes what happened on August 22, 2018: "Mr. Mayek was on LSD — not a good thing — and he was out of his mind. He was sort of dancing down the street, tripping and thinking he was the Lord God almighty, yelling things. And the cops got involved. They were ordering him, 'Stop, stop,' but he was on LSD, and he continued to dance and carry on. So they decided, 'When you're not doing what we told you to do, we're going to break your bones and electrocute you' — and that's what happened. Officer Rodarte broke Mr. Mayek's leg, broke his orbital bone and broke his nose, all because Mayek wouldn't do what he told him to do."
Here's body-worn camera video of what went down.
The lack of evidence that Mayek had broken the law is key to Lane's argument. "People don't have to obey the police if there's no reasonable suspicion that they've committed a crime," he notes. "If a cop comes up and says, 'Let me see your ID,' you can say 'Go fuck yourself' unless the cop has a reasonable suspicion you've committed a crime. Then you have to give it over — but otherwise, you don't."
Prosecutors routinely deem police actions justified no matter how shocking they might seem to the general public, but not this time around. In late 2018, the suit acknowledges, Denver District Attorney Beth McCann criminally charged Rodarte with "second degree assault for unlawfully, feloniously, and recklessly causing serious bodily injury to Plaintiff by means of a deadly weapon."
On October 2, 2019, Rodarte was acquitted after a jury trial — but he resigned from the Denver Police Department in May, before he could be fired. Two other officers involved in the matter — James Martinez and Douglass Watson, who are also named as plaintiffs — received ten-day suspensions for tasing Mayek after he'd ceased to be a threat.
"My hat is off to Beth McCann," Lane says. "She at least tried to see that justice was done."
Nonetheless, Lane feels that merely losing his job isn't appropriate compensation for what Rodarte did to Mayek. "Yes, he was acquitted, but so was O.J. [Simpson], and in the civil suit, O.J. was found liable," he points out. "So now, Mr. Rodarte can hopefully receive a little justice from a civil jury."
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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.