Denver police officers beat a 60-year-old man who wasn’t suspected of a crime and then inaccurately described their actions in reports, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday against the city.
Attorneys for Aaron Hernandez said the officers used excessive force against Hernandez and arrested him on assault charges even though police officers were the instigators in the 2019 incident. Prosecutors later dropped the charges against Hernandez, who has no criminal history in Colorado.
“That was assault against me for me doing nothing,” Hernandez said Wednesday. “I told them I couldn’t do anything at all and then all of a sudden I’m on the ground getting beat up, getting hit in the face. It was brutal.”
The Denver Police Department declined to comment on the lawsuit Wednesday.
Sgt. Michael O’Neill first approached Hernandez and his son, Aaron Hernandez Jr., on June 30, 2019, because he saw them sitting in their car in a vacant church parking lot next to a property that had just been declared a nuisance, according to O’Neill’s police report. It was provided to The Denver Post by Hernandez’s attorneys at Baumgartner Law.
O’Neill then ran the car’s plates and discovered the registered owner, the younger Hernandez, had a warrant and called for back up.
Body camera footage shows Officer Jayme Larson arrive, and Hernandez and his son still sitting in their car. As she approaches, the elder Hernandez starts to get out of the passenger side. Larson makes a disapproving noise and grabs his wrist before yanking him away from the car, the video shows.
Hernandez explained that he needed to stand up because he was in pain from a medical condition. Larson and another officer, Vance Johnson, held Larson against the vehicle before forcing him to the ground, the footage shows.
Larson wrote in her report that she punched Hernandez in the side after her kicked her. Johnson wrote in his report that he elbowed Hernandez in the face after arriving, and seeing the two struggling and alleged Hernandez kicked him in the groin.
Larson wrote in her report: “Based upon his observed demeanor, my impression was that if he exited the vehicle he would attempt to interfere with the arrest. In a non-confrontational tone I attempted to de-escalate the situation by placing my hands out and advising him to remain seated
inside the vehicle. Hernandez Sr. refused to remain seated and and stood up, advancing towards me. I observed Hernandez Sr. lift his right wrist and begin to ball it into a fist, so I immediately grabbed it to simply control it.”
Body camera footage shows that Hernandez did not take a step toward Larson, nor did ball his fist. She also did not give him a command to stay seated and only made noises at him.
During the arrest, both men told the officers that the elder Hernandez had just undergone surgery. The elder Hernandez told officers several times that he was in pain. Hernandez said the elbow to the face broke his an orbital bone in his eye socket that has permanently damaged his vision.
Officers did not identify themselves when Hernandez asked them what their names are, telling him it would be on their arrest paperwork, the body camera video shows. Body camera footage shows several Denver police officers standing around and laughing after they arrested both men and placed them in squad cars.
O’Neill completed a use of force report about the incident and recommended no further investigation, his report shows. The sergeant also said there was no way they could’ve handled the situation better and commended officers for displaying “professionalism and restraint.”
Hernandez was jailed for three days after his arrest, court records show. Denver prosecutors charged him with second- and third-degree assault but nine months later dropped the charges, court records show.
“Officer Larson and Officer Johnson caused Mr. Hernandez’s prosecution and confinement
by intentionally making false statements in their police reports which directly led to the charges
against Mr. Hernandez” the lawsuit states. “The Defendant officers did this in order to justify their gratuitous beating of Plaintiff, a disabled elderly man, and give them cover for inflicting visually disturbing injuries.”
None of the officers were disciplined for the incident, Hernandez’s attorney Birk Baumgartner said.
Hernandez said he was embarrassed that his son had to watch the violent arrest. The officers involved should not be allowed to work in law enforcement, he said.
“I told them the truth and they didn’t accept it,” Hernandez said. “I just want people to know there are good cops and bad cops, and the ones that are bad need to be dealt with in a different way.”
“I do pray for them,” he added.
Source: Read Full Article