85-year-old man accused in cane attack released from jail, back home

DENVER — He’s 85, can hardly hear and walks with a cane. And for two nights, John Copeland sat in a Denver jail cell–accused of assaulting a man with his cane.

But thanks to a community outcry, he’s home.

“Thank you all, we appreciate it,” says a friend of Copeland’s as they walk out of the Denver jail Friday night. 

It’s the result of a community coming together.

“My father has been released and it’s all good,” says Larry Copeland.

The 85-year-old with his walker,  gets sprung from jail, where he’s been since late Wednesday night.

“He never identified himself or nothing,” Copeland told reporter Justin Joseph, during a jailhouse interview Thursday.

Police arrested Copeland at his home after what happened in the parking lot of a Stapleton Home Depot on December 15.

Police say Copeland hit Richard Knudson in the head with his cane.

“I work for Denver Police,” says Knudson to reporter Justin Joseph.

Knudson says he identified himself as a cop–though not in a uniform–then, seized the nearly deaf and disabled veteran’s expired handicapped placard.

Copeland had been sitting in a handicap parking spot waiting for a friend who was inside the store.

Copeland says he didn’t know what was going on when Knudson placed a ticket on his windshield, then took his placard when he learned it was expired.

Denver Police Chief Robert White says Knudson is not a cop.

“He is not a sworn member of the police department,” he says.

Knudson is actually a volunteer with the city’s Disability Parking Program.

In a press release police write: “This program is not even managed by or associated with the police department–it is actually managed by the Human Rights and Community Relations group.” See the full response from Denver police here.

But it’s what happened in a Denver courtroom Thursday that really fired up his family and friends.

The judge set bond at $50,000.

“My grandpa is elderly. He is not going to run anywhere. $50,000 bond is ridiculous,” says Copeland’s grandson, Jovaun Copeland, 21.

“It is not a mass demonstration. It is just a concern,” says a man who participated in a march to city hall.

They demand fairness for a man who fought for our country–and now facing a fight he didn’t want.

“We are not asking charges be dropped. We are just asking for justice and for him to be out of jail, so he can go back to his family and be treated with respect,” says friend Alvertis Simmons.

A judge listens and drops bond to $2,000.

So Copeland’s family comes up with the money and he’s freed–for now.

He’s finally home with his trusty cane–which is vital to his independence, but may also jeopardize it.

“I never done anything. All I did was defend myself against someone who didn’t represent himself. That’s it,” says Copeland.

Police say Knudson does have the authority to do what he did.

However, the department seems to realize there are potential issues in that it may be hard to recognize he has that authority.

Copeland is back in court Jan. 18.