United States District Judge Richard Matsch just ruled that the lawsuit resulting from the fatal shooting of Jaime Ceballos in August 2013 by Thornton police will go to trial against both the officer and the City of Thornton.
Like many mentally ill or disturbed individuals who end up dead at the hands of police officers, the 911 call in this case was placed by a family member looking for help.
Mr. Ceballos’ wife called the Thornton Police Department for emergency assistance in getting her husband who was off his psychiatric medications and on drugs to leave the house. When the police arrived, Mr. Ceballos was alone in his driveway pacing around and talking to himself holding a bat. Rather than trying to de-escalate and calm this situation down, the police aggressively and quickly approached Mr. Ceballos with their guns drawn and shot him within under one minute of their arrival. He died instantly in front of his wife, friends, and 16 month old daughter.
Judge Matsch refused to dismiss the claims against the officer for excessive force and also found that the evidence demonstrated that the City of Thornton was deliberately indifferent in not training its officers in how to deal with mentally ill or disturbed individuals. The Judge was particularly concerned that the City of Thornton awarded the police officers “medals of valor” for standing their ground and shooting Mr. Ceballos. The Chief of Police even testified that he would have his officers do everything exactly the same if given another chance.
This case is yet another in a long line of many that deals with the inappropriate and warrior mentality surrounding police interactions with the community in Colorado and elsewhere.
Read the Denver Post article here:
The Firm recently filed a lawsuit for the death of Dennis Choquette against Corrections Corporation of America, other private entities, multiple involved professionals and the Colorado Department of Corrections for deliberate indifference to Mr. Choquette's obvious very serious diabetic condition which previously already ended his ambulation. He was thereafter confined to a wheelchair.
Despite his serious Charcot condition, which was not disclosed to him for a long time after it was diagnosed, Mr. Choquette was required to walk for months even though involved medical staff knew that walking on his foot with his new Charcot condition could destroy the bones which it did.
After months of ignoring his medical needs, Mr. Choquette's foot was known to be so badly deformed and injured that it then required amputation below the knee. Though Mr. Choquette clearly needed such amputation, and begged repeatedly for it to be done, he was denied access to surgical care for many more months and during the times when he was still medically stable.
Mr. Choquette died in custody after his condition and a recurring open ankle area wound deteriorated, became infected and was abandoned to the point of severe sepsis. Upon transfer from DOC to the hospital in this frightful state, a far too late emergency amputation for severe osteomyelitis was performed. Mr. Choquette lived just days past this amputation.
His estate also alleges that the caregivers and systems involved had financial incentives against providing Mr. Choquette with the care he desperately needed unless he was willing to pay for it. He was this both too long kept weight bearing in a private jail which could not possibly meet his serious medical needs or accommodate him and then prevented from being transferred to a hospital for well known to be needed amputation surgery. His persisting medical crisis was treated as if caring for him was a choice rather than mandatory.
Because no one along this disasterous course would get him urgently required medical care, Dennis Choquette also was allowed to suffer greatly for a very long period of time until he died.
See Westword's article on this case, entitled: The Torturous, Completely Preventable Slow-Motion Death of Dennis Choquette .
Further press related to this can be seen at:
A video recorded by an officer-worn body cam shows troubling footage of DPD officers needlessly tasing a local homeless man in the chest, striking him with the taser during an incident in June 2016 and then telling paramedics an exaggerated version of how the event unfolded and the level of threat the man posed. The officers also offered a version of events in their written report that favored their own side and covered for the abuse.
The video shows Greg Heard, a homeless black being instructed by Officer Greg Dulayev to come out from behind bushes he had been using as cover. Mr. Heard can be seen immediately complying, showing Officer Dulayev both palms of his empty hands and that he was clearly unarmed. Mr. Heard then slowly and calmly crawls out, stands up, and takes a step in order to comply with the officer’s command that he get out from behind the bushes, displaying no agitation, no aggression, not attempting to escape, and posing no threat to anyone. It is clear in the video that Mr. Heard was trying to be cooperative, submit to the officer’s orders, and explain his situation, but before being given a meaningful chance to do so, he is needlessly tased in the chest and apparently ALSO struck with the butt of a taser by Officer Dulayev, causing him immediate, serious pain and difficulty breathing for minutes thereafter.
The video goes on to show that as Mr. Heard fell to the ground, incapacitated by the tasing - Officer Dulayev then put his knee in Mr. Heard’s back and began shouting: “Stop resisting! Stop resisting!” to cover up the fact that he had just rendered Mr. Heard defenseless with the taser with no justification and despite no resistance whatsoever.
Later in the video, Officer Dulayev and another responding officer can be heard continuing to cover up their abuse during after-action discussion with paramedics who arrived on the scene. In their reports, the officers pretend that this homeless man was disobeying repeated orders and threatening them, while the video plainly shows he was doing no such thing. The video shows a disturbing example of the cultural pattern present in part of DPD that condones officers giving false reports to investigators and in official records that cover for their abuses - practice that continues to be tolerated by Denver’s top officials.
This matter of concern has received significant public attention including the video. John Holland and Dan Weiss are preparing a federal lawsuit regarding this tasing.
See press coverage of Mr. Heard's tasing: