85-year-old charged with assault for striking parking attendant with cane

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John Copeland, 85, is released from a Denver jail on Jan 4, 2013.

John Copeland, 85, is released from a Denver jail on Jan 4, 2013.

DENVER — For two nights, 85-year-old John Copeland sat in a Denver jail cell accused of assaulting a parking enforcement volunteer with his cane.

Almost a month after the incident, the man who says he can hardly hear or see was officially charged on Monday with third degree assault on an at-risk adult.

Initially, Copeland was being held on felony charges and $50,000 bond for assault with a deadly weapon. Copeland called the crime nothing more than a misunderstanding. There was vocal faction of the Denver community who spoke up in agreement after the senior citizen was pulled from his bed and arrested on the night of Jan. 2.

“It’s tragic that on the eve on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s letter from a Birmingham jail that an elderly 85 year old man is sitting in jail on $50,000 bond and charged with a felony based on a handicapped sticker.” said Jeff Fard, a longtime community leader and Director at Brother Jeff’s Cultural Center.

Readily admitting to striking a 66-year-old parking enforcement volunteer with his cane during a trip to a Stapleton Home Depot on Dec. 15, Copeland said he only did so because he thought he was being attacked.

The parking enforcement volunteer was deputized to work with the Denver Police Department, and they typically dress in civilian clothing. According to Copeland, the volunteer was trying to forcefully confiscate what he called an expired handicap permit.

Copeland said he only reacted to the volunteer’s use of force and lack of official identification.

“He (the volunteer) never identified himself or nothing,” Copeland said from jail. “I opened the door, I had my walking cane and I got out. He (the volunteer) said, ‘Let me show you this card is expired.’ So I handed him the handicap sticker.

“He said ‘I’m going to confiscate it.’ I said ‘You can’t take my stuff.’ He slammed the door on me, so I took my cane and hit him.”

The volunteer, who asked not to be identified, told FOX31 Denver he was stunned when Copeland struck him with the cane.

“When I refused to return the placard, Copeland got angry,” the volunteer said. “He could have killed me.”

Copeland’s bond was later reduced to $2,000 after his initial arrest and he was released on Jan. 4. He is scheduled to appear in a Denver County Court on Jan. 18 to be formally advised of the charge against him.