Alex Landau's Bloody Beating By Denver Cops Goes National Thanks to Echoes of Ferguson
Last Friday, the morning after communities across the country held rallies to protest police violence against African-Americans -- and, specifically, the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri -- National Public Radio's StoryCorps ran a particularly appropriate piece. It focuses on Alex Landau, an African-American who was adopted by a white couple as a child, grew up in Denver and had his own unfortunate encounter with cops when he was nineteen -- one that left him beaten and bloody.
As we recounted in "Black and Blue," our January 18, 2011 cover story, Landau was stopped by Denver Police Department officers after he made an illegal left turn in north Capitol Hill -- an encounter that left him bleeding by the curb "in acute distress," the paramedics reported when they arrived.
It took 45 stitches to close the cuts on his face alone -- and Landau, who had never been in trouble with the cops and whose adopted family includes several with law-enforcement backgrounds -- asked the paramedics to take a photo of his injuries before he was stitched up.
Alex Landau after his encounter with the DPD.
Those photographs became compelling exhibits when Landau sued the City of Denver two years after the beating. And soon after our story appeared, he was awarded a $795,000 settlement. Two of the police officers involved have since been fired from the DPD for excessive use of force -- in other incidents.
StoryCorps taped the piece on Landau and his mother, Patsy Hathaway, in Aurora a couple of months ago. "As time went by, we weren't sure they were going to use it," Landau says. But then early last week, he got a call from NPR staffers doing some fact-checking. The situation in Ferguson had moved this particular StoryCorps piece to the head of the line, Landau says, because it was "another example of a militarized police state exercising racial profiling."
Landau was a studen at Metro when the cops pulled him over more than five years ago. He's working now -- in security! -- and has a couple of semesters to go at the University of Colorado Denver, where he's studying communications and social justice. He's still doing poetry, still doing music -- and he's a father now, as of July 29. He wants to make sure the world is a safer place for his child.
After Landau sued the city, he became very involved in social issues, working with the the Colorado Progressive Coalition to establish a racial-profiling hotline. And he continues his efforts to stop abusive cops today. "Nobody has gotten up and acknowledged these kind of behaviors for what they are," he says. He's pushing for more transparency, and is particularly interested in requiring body cameras for officers, a move that DPD Chief Robert White backs.
"I support that," Landau says. "We just have a long way to go. They have to acknowledge accountability."
Continue for the StoryCorps piece on Alex Landau.