Denver Diner: Attorney, witness of brutality incident decry accused cops' back-to-work order


Original post, 11:09 a.m. September 20, 2011: In April, Denver cops Ricky Nixon and Kevin Devine were fired in relation to a billy-clubbing and macing incident that took place in 2009.

Now, the four victims in that case have filed lawsuits against the City and County of Denver, charging that as much damage was done to them by bureaucracy as by the officers in question.

"The officers being fired is a start, but only a start," says attorney Siddhartha Rathod, who is representing victims Kelly Boren, Sharelle Thomas, Ana Ortega and Kristal Carrillo in conjunction with fellow lawyer Qusair Mohamedbhai. "These women were brutalized by Officer Nixon and Officer Devine, but the City of Denver then participated in the malicious prosecution of these women. And this isn't an isolated incident. The Denver Police Department has a culture of allowing its officers to brutalize people, of allowing its officers to lie and cover up."

sharelle thomas.jpg
Sharelle Thomas.
The suits filed in the names of Boron, Thomas, Ortega and Carrillo include frame-by-frame breakdowns of a HALO video of the incident; they're included below, along with a copy of Boren's complaint. But here's how Rathod summarizes the incident.

"On July 12, 2009, Officer Nixon was working in an off-duty capacity at the Denver Diner -- and he was in uniform," he says. A short time earlier, "Kristal had been a victim of an assault in the restroom. She was attacked by an unknown party and was defending herself when Officer Nixon grabbed her, dragged her outside, arrested her and handcuffed her. In the video, Ana comes outside -- she'd been in the bathroom with Kristal, and she can be seen telling Officer Nixon, 'She didn't do anything wrong.' But he's basically not listening to her, so she walks a little bit away.

"Just at that time, Sharelle and Kelly arrive. Sharelle had just graduated from Colorado Christian Academy, and they arrived via pedicab. They're walking straight to the door when Officer Devine, who's smoking a big cigar, can be seen coming in from the right side of the video and pushes Sharelle. She stumbles forward, and when she stands back up, she says something to the effect of 'You can't treat me that way,' which any citizen should be able to say to an officer or anyone else in that situation."

At that point, Rathod goes on, "Officer Devine pulls out his nightstick and starts waving it in Sharelle's face. He then grabs her by the arm and starts pulling her toward where Kristal is on the ground in handcuffs. He's about to strike Sharelle with his nightstick, but stops inches away. Kelly then steps in between Sharelle and Officer Devine, to stop him from striking her in the face -- and Officer Devine grabs Kelly by the neck and throws her. And he's a big guy, She goes completely off the ground. And then he grabs Sharelle and yanks her onto the ground, and Officer Nixon pins her down.

kelly boren.jpg
Kelly Boren.
"Ana sees all this, and she's saying, 'What are you doing?' when Officer Devine, still smoking the cigar, grabs her and throws her down to her knees. Then he takes her arm behind her back and puts his nightstick into her shoulder -- and right as he's about to assault her, Officer Nixon pulls out his mace and sprays it maybe two inches from her face before taking a couple steps to the left and macing Sharelle and Kelly."

Ortega was subsequently handcuffed, as was Thomas -- and Rathod points out that assorted officers on the scene offered no help to the maced women even as they treated their own eyes with saline solution. Amid this scene, "Anna, who had been on her knees, stands up and asks for help, and Officer Nixon grabs her by the throat with both of his hands and slams her to the ground. Kristal then tried to help her, and Officer Nixon slams his fist full-force into her face."

As Rathod points out, none of the women had done anything wrong -- and Carrillo was actually a victim of an attack before the officers took charge. Nonetheless, only Thomas was released, while the other three were charged with assorted infractions because "Officer Nixon and Officer Devine falsified police reports and fabricated charges," he maintains.

The HALO video of the incident was never produced during the criminal cases against Carrillo, Ortega and Boren. They didn't know of its existence until officers Nixon and Devine were fired earlier this year. After their sacking, Westword confirmed that Nixon had also been involved in the beating of Alexander Landau. The incident led to a settlement with Landau for $795,000.

Lacking this information, Carrillo, Ortega and Boren pleaded to a deferred judgment -- one that would eventually wipe the incident from their records. But Rathod says they would never have done so had the City of Denver provided the video and other exculpatory evidence, which would have given them the tools to prove that they'd done nothing wrong and the officers had lied.

Thomas suffered in a different way. She was hospitalized after the Denver Diner incident, and what Rathod calls "foreign debris" was removed from her eye. A year later, she had to undergo eye surgery.

siddhartha rathod.jpg
Siddhartha Rathod.
The lawsuits against Denver and the officers were originally filed in state court this past July -- "but recently, the City of Denver and the police officers removed the case to federal court," Rathod allows. "We think it's ironic that the City of Denver doesn't want a Denver jury to decide what happens to the Denver Police Department." The four cases remain separate, but he expects them to be consolidated in the future.

In addition, Carrillo, Ortega and Boren "are trying to go back and withdraw their original guilty plea," he says. "That's not going to affect their civil case, but it's a matter of principle, a matter of right and wrong. What happened to these women, from the assault to the prosecution, was wrong -- anybody who takes the time to listen to the story of these women can see that. And I think, clearly, the citizens of Denver have seen that.

"These four women were brutally assaulted and maced by officers Nixon and Devine. They were then wrongfully prosecuted by the City and County of Denver. And absent people with the courage of these four women to step forward and say, 'This conduct is wrong,' this kind of thing is going to keep happening."

Look below to see a CBS4 report featuring excerpts from the HALO video, a frame-by-frame breakdown featuring text from one of the suits, and the Boren complaint.

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21 comments
Rodger
Rodger

I watched the tape.  I wonder how the two cops felt being surrounded by a drunk mob?  I really didn't see any excessive force. 

 

Advice:  when the cops are there, be on your good behaivior, and don't interfere.   Don't act drunk and stupid and you won't have any problems.

carlraymiller
carlraymiller

well they need to be carful cuss you know one day they will come across a inocent person do that and there reltive could be one of the wakos who decide to take out an entire department you know when they push people to fair it can happen I hope not becouse the good cops would get hurt but its always possable if there are so many currpt cops there doing that stuff

Bob_Smith
Bob_Smith

Hell, if they'd agree to can the CSC and all the Hearing Officers I might vote to give them their $68 million more a year. 

Matt Planteen
Matt Planteen

The problem is that the definition of 'excessive' has become a floating, entirely arbitrary one due to very poor judicial precedent. Furthermore, there remains little to no oversight of law enforcement with which to effectively combat this behavior. Here in Wyoming, a young man was shot and very nearly killed a few months ago. The officers were 'cleared' by DCI and allowed by their department to return to duty with no transparency, apparently before the full investigation had even been completed, and before any records of any kind were turned over to the county attorney's office (to my knowledge this STILL hasn't happened). All claims of excessive force should be investigated by a dedicated third-party oversight agency and automatically go to a civilian Grand Jury. Those found guilty should be punished at maximum sentencing levels.

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

DPD has many criminals out on the street and administering the Department; Nixon and Devine are just two more.

Mel Dee
Mel Dee

I couldn't agree with you more Josh.

Jim Creekmore
Jim Creekmore

This happens everywhere. It's as if society is becoming numb to it.

Josh Bradley
Josh Bradley

Good question Mel. It would be great if such a question was posed directly to the powers that be and a real answer required before leaving them alone. One officer already cost the tax payers about $800,000...I am positive his position could be effectively filled with a new officer.

Mel Dee
Mel Dee

What is considered "excessive use of force" to the Denver police department then if this isn't? It seems to me that they don't even know what excessive use of force means, that, or they just simply don't care. This is beyond ridiculous and I cannot believe there is even an ounce of consideration putting them back out on the streets. If they engaged in this type of "control" or "policing" before, they are going to do it over and over and over again. Especially when they have other "justice" professionals backing up their behavior and claiming it to be "by the book," Unbelievable.

Matt Planteen
Matt Planteen

So law enforcement investigated itself and found itself innocent? I'm shocked.

stevebeast
stevebeast

thats the denver police for you, they get up early to beat the crowds. if you go into the city limits you take your life in your own hands.There is nothing in the denver city limits that you cant get in the suburbs and its soooo not worth it,

 

IZen
IZen

First item on the agenda for city council should be to gut the Civil Service Commission's authority.  They have proven time and again that they are unable to rule impartially.

Scarifying
Scarifying

Denver cops reinstated with full back pay and benefits after beshitting their badge and lying with every breath that they could muster about an unwarranted beating administered to unarmed women? Must be Friday.

ctewell1
ctewell1

 @stevebeast how bout live music steve, I havent been to a show in highlands ranch in forever dammit! 

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

 @stevebeast Interesting post, Steve -- one we're going to make an upcoming Comment of the Day. Much appreciated.

stevebeast
stevebeast

 @ctewell1

 Red Rocks in Jefferson county is one of the best venues in the world.

Spliffy
Spliffy

Actually, the City of Denver owns Red Rocks (even though it's in Jefferson County)  and staffs DPD as "security" at all the shows. Like the Jethro Tull show in the 70's where they tear gassed the whole crowd.

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