Martinez family lawsuit: Members of Mexican band say Denver cops mistakenly beat them

daniel martinez.JPG
Daniel Martinez III.
Attorney David Lane says he's got about a half-dozen active lawsuits against the Denver Police Department, including an excessive-force complaint against DPD officer and ex-American Gladiator contestant Vicki Fernandez that's scheduled for trial beginning today. His latest? A suit on behalf of the Martinez family, whose members are part of a Mexican band. They claim Denver cops mistakenly beat them, then accused the family of assault -- charges that were later dismissed.

In response, DPD spokesman Lieutenant Matt Murray points out that an internal affairs investigation and the Office of the Independent Monitor determined that the accusations against the officers in question were found to be baseless.

martinez home.JPG
The house at 1263 Stuart Street where the incident took place.
Qusair Mohamedbhai, an attorney who defended the family against the assault accusations and is handling the suit in conjunction with Lane, describes the Martinezes as "a family Mexican band. They've even done fundraising for other law enforcement, like in Adams County. They're good people. Nobody's got criminal records."

Here's how Mohamedbhai lays out the facts of the case.

"The Martinez family moved into a house at 1263 Stuart Street in December of '08, about a month before the incident went down," Mohamedbhai says. "The police were, I suppose, working on stale information about the former tenants presumably being into drugs and prostitution and some bad stuff. But those guys had been gone for a while. According to the landlord, the house had stayed empty for five or six weeks prior to the Martinez family moving in.

Cut to January 27, 2009, just past 11 p.m., when members of the District 1 Special Crime Attack Team, better known as SCAT, arrived at the Martinez home. "They had no warrant, no application for a warrant, nothing," Mohamedbhai allows. "They come in hard, kind of expecting to come into a drug den. The father [Daniel Martinez Jr.] opens the door a crack and cops rush in and engage three of the Martinez family -- the father and three of the kids [Jonathan, age sixteen at the time, Nathan, nineteen, and Daniel III, 21]. They punched first, asked questions later. One of the kids [Jonathan] got his head put through a window, and another one [Nathan] got punched so hard that he was launched into the air and staggered back. Then two of them got body slammed outside."

jonathan martinez.JPG
Jonathan Martinez.
Once everyone was cuffed, Mohamedbhai says the officers assembled everyone on a couch inside the house -- "and they look around and realize they're in a little family house, not a drug den. Then they ask everyone for their socials, and they've all got them; they're all citizens. So they trump up this story that the kids attacked them once the police came in the house upon consent. That's their version -- that the dad let them in and the kids started swinging on these huge cops."

Mohamedbhai insists that this last descriptor isn't hyperbole. "One of the cops is six-five, another one is six-four. And Jonathan Martinez, he's something like 120 pounds."

Nonetheless, Nathan and Daniel III were charged with third-degree assault on a police officer, "which has huge criminal implications," Mohamedbhai points out. "Even if you have no prior history, it's a mandatory sentence of two years and a day in the Department of Corrections." But things worked out differently. In a jury trial in January 2010, "they were acquitted of all charges by the jury," he continues, "because the police story, once you dissect it, made no sense at all. There were inconsistencies of what happened, who was there, the sequence of events. It just wasn't clear."

lieutenant matt murray.JPG
Lt. Matt Murray.
Hence, the lawsuit, filed earlier this month, which claims the officers violated the Martinez family's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights "when they recklessly, knowingly,
intentionally, willfully, and wantonly sought Plaintiffs' arrests and instituted legal process
against them by acting with knowledge that Plaintiffs had committed no violation of law."

As Mohamedbhai notes, "there are serious constitutional protections in your home -- and intruding into someone's home at night without a warrant and beating up everyone inside -- and then covering up your own bad acts -- is egregious. And, of course, Denver's internal-affairs bureau just whitewashed everything, which is no surprise."

DPD spokesman Murray couldn't disagree more. He stresses that the internal-affairs investigation was conducted under the supervision of the Office of the Independent Monitor, which exists to make certain that inquiries are handled fairly and objectively -- and both agencies came to the same conclusion.

david lane.JPG
David Lane.
"The complaint was ruled to be 'unfounded,' which is the highest level of outcome an officer can have in an internal affairs case," Murray says. "There were conflicting statements from the family making the charges, as outlined in the letter by the Independent Monitor. And just because they made the allegation in court, and just because someone is found not guilty in court, doesn't mean something didn't happen."

As for Lane, he maintains that he's filed so many lawsuits against the Denver Police Department of late because, "as my grandmother used to say, a fish stinks from the head. There's a culture of brutality that's tolerated in the DPD, from the Chief of Police and the Manager of Safety on down."

Page below to read the lawsuit, as well as letters to the Martinez family from Denver Police investigators and the Office of the Independent Monitor. Also on view: a Fox31 report about the case.

My Voice Nation Help
9 comments
Johnbrown
Johnbrown

March for justice for Marvin Booker and all the victims of police terror!Saturday January 29, 6pm, Meet at the Denver Skatepark

No justice, no peace...

Six months ago,Denver sheriff's deputies murdered Marvin Booker. Since then, there has been no justice.

We are still here, we are still angry, and we are still demanding accountability. Until then, there will be no peace....In the six months since Marvin's murder while in custody at the Van Cise-Simonet Justice Center, nothing has changed. The deputies that murdered Marvin still guard other prisoners, after the Denver DA refused to press charges. The videotaped evidence of the entire incident has never been released to the public, under the claim that an internal affairs investigation is still ongoing.

Six months later, and nothing has changed. In the months since Marvin's murder, dozens of allegations have been leveled against Denver metro area law enforcement departments of abuse, assault, rape, and misconduct.

In Aurora, a DARE officer distributed child pornography. In Denver, a police officer raped women and threatened them with arrest if they failed to give in to his advances or tried to report his actions. In Denver, lawsuit after lawsuit has been filed alleging extreme police violence. In Denver, police assaulted a disabled woman for not opening the door fast enough for them. In Lakewood, police killed an unarmed man who was stealing money to pay his rent and take care of his family.

This isn't just about a few bad apples. This is about the role of police and policing within our society.

While the economy crumbles, and millions of people in the US are unemployed, and millions more face evictions and homelessness, the police are at war with the people. Working to protect what little is left of the social order and the power that the rich struggle to maintain, the police wage an unrelenting assault on the people of the U.S.

From police murders in Seattle to Oakland, from Baltimore to Denver, the pattern is easy to understand. We are all targets.

Join us to march against police terror. Let's take the streets to show them that we aren't going away... that we're still angry... that we will always remember Marvin and all the other victims... that we will take action.

Six months have passed, and nothing has changed... but WE can make this whole situation change. It's up to us.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Thanks for posting more information about the Marvin Booker march.

Notarealaddress
Notarealaddress

"The complaint was ruled to be 'unfounded,' which is the highest level of outcome an officer can have in an internal affairs case," Murray says. and then goes on to say "...And just because they made the allegation in court, and just because someone is found not guilty in court, doesn't mean something didn't happen."

Translation: The court outsome is kinda iffy, but if internal affirs says it didn't happen, then its gospel. It is simply amazing how self-important and self-entitled that attitude is.

16candles
16candles

I read a lot of these type of police stories. This one is exceptionally well reported, laying out both sides. Kudos for the good journalism.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Thanks for the kind words, 16candles. Much appreciated.

TracyD
TracyD

So each family member remembers and experienced some things a little differently. That is normal and seen all the time when talking to eyewitnesses. It does not indicate lying. On the other hand the cops stories all match, common when you are in collusion and covering each others backs. Plus cops have been told by courts they can lie so often that they forget when they should tell the truth.

Colforbin
Colforbin

People of Denver! Stand up for your fellow citizens. Whenever you see a someone pulled over. RECORD IT. We all have a camera in our pocket. Use it to teach these pigs a lesson.

DPDisNotAboveTheLaw
DPDisNotAboveTheLaw

I'm guessing having the most violent and possibly the most corrupt police force in the nation is not that great for Denver business. No one in their right mind trusts the OIM or the IA dept. Too corrupt for too long.

And did Hickenlooper -- the once-Mayor, now Gov, believed by many to be so good for business -- do anything to curb DPD's attacks on innocents? He looked the other way for years, as DPD's attacks continued. Probably didn't want to look "weak, so he just let DPD continue to whirl completely out of control.

Squeaky-clean, my ass.

Robert
Robert

Apart from violently abusive cops, it has become clear that there are many perjurers in and running the DPD -- perjury is a felony. Morrissey needs to be removed from office immediately for failing to act against the ongoing criminal conduct in the DPD. Morrissey was the only candidate for District Attorney in 2009 -- we are paying for the failure of the local Democratic machine to put forward candidates of integrity.

P.S. Colorado just elected Denver's rotting fish head Governor.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...