Last year, three private security guards pleaded guilty to criminal charges after an incident on April 20, when they conspired to beat up a Regional Transportation District customer inside the men’s bathroom in the underground bus concourse at Union Station.
The most seriously charged of the three guards, all of whom were under contract with RTD and working for the private security company Allied Universal, was given his sentence for a Class 5 felony menacing conviction — threatening a victim with a weapon — on Monday, February 4. James Hunter, 35, immediately reported to Denver County Jail for a 120-day sentence with work release, after which he must complete eighteen months of probation.
The other two security guards, Victor Diaz and Taylor Taggert, both pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault charges and were sentenced to two years and eighteen months of probation, respectively.
"My client appreciates the dedicated focus of the Denver District Attorney's Office to ensure these three governmental security guards faced consequences for the violent crimes committed against him," says the plaintiff's attorney, Qusair Mohamedbhai, who requested that we withhold the name of the victim.
The incident last April raised concerns about transparency and accountability for private security guards operating in public spaces, as well as claims of racial- and class-based profiling at Union Station, all of which was explored in a Westword cover story (“On Guard,” July 12, 2018). Allied Universal has been sued for discriminatory practices before and was taken to court in Boston after one of its guards was caught on camera beating up a homeless man in December 2016.
The incident in Denver took place around 2:30 a.m. on April 20, when the victim, a fifty-year-old African-American man, was heading home to Montbello from an art-gallery party in lower downtown. The man sat on a bench behind Union Station as he waited for the A Line train when a security guard told him to leave.
Trying to avoid the security guard and further harassment, the victim relocated to the nearby underground bus terminal to wait for a train to arrive, according to a Denver Police Department arrest warrant. But at 2:41 a.m., four security guards surrounded the victim in the terminal, in a scene captured by security cameras. They argued with the man about whether he could be there, and one guard asked him if he considered himself a “tough guy.” Hunter suggested they go settle the argument in a bathroom, where, he noted, “there are no cameras.”
At 2:47 a.m., security footage showed the victim walking toward the men’s bathroom near the escalators heading to Chestnut Place. Hunter and Diaz followed him.
Once inside the bathroom, the man later told police, Hunter and Diaz checked the stalls to make sure they were empty. Then Hunter put on a pair of black gloves with silver dots on the knuckles and took a swing; his fist collided with the left side of the man’s face. The victim says he has no memory of what happened after that punch. He was even unsure of how he got home when he woke up there two days later.
According to the DPD, the four security guards conspired to cover up the bathroom beating. But one, whom police didn't name or charge, later told on his co-workers.
The Denver District Attorney's Office indicted three guards, and all accepted plea deals rather than standing trial.
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At Hunter’s arraignment on December 7, the judge asked him, “You were in a fight with [the victim] and injured him significantly, is that true?”
“Yes,” Hunter replied.
Around that time, Mohamedbhai told us that his client was still suffering from head injuries related to the incident. “He’s suffering from memory loss and other neurological impairments,” he said. Mohamedbhai noted that his client did not receive any financial compensation in the criminal proceedings, but the lawyer did not rule out other litigation. “We’re evaluating everything moving forward,” he told us at the time. “This is likely not going to end with these criminal pleas."
After Hunter’s sentencing on Monday, Mohamedbhai said he and his client are still considering a civil lawsuit.