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Denver has paid more than $400,000 for injured sheriff department employees since 2017

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DENVER -- The city and county of Denver has paid more than $417,000 to cover medical-related expenses for sheriff department employees who were struck and injured on the job -- mostly by inmates -- since 2017.

The greatest payout was in July 2017, when $52,424.51 was spent to cover medical costs, lost time and disability expenses for an employee who suffered injuries during an altercation with a suspect.

It’s not certain how much Denver will pay for medical expenses related to an altercation that happened Friday evening, when two deputies went to a hospital after a scuffle with an inmate.

“They were both OK,” interim Sheriff Fran Gomez said. “Unfortunately, sometimes, it’s an inherent danger of the job, but we do need to do a better job with -- for instance -- de-escalation communications.”

Documents show deputies accused Howard Thomas Putzier, who goes by Tom, of kicking and punching the deputies.

According to a court filing, deputies told Putzier to quiet down, but he “refused (and) ... took a bladed fighting stance and began resisting against the sheriffs.”

The documents said Putzier was controlled after 10 minutes of fighting with deputies.

“I never punched anyone. I was trying to keep from being hit,” Putzier said. “I did, at some point, push them away ... but only to prevent myself from being hurt. I was afraid of them killing me, honestly.”

Putzier was seen in a video conference call on Wednesday morning with a bloodshot eye and a dark purple bruise on his face surrounding his eye.

“If they had approached me respectfully and I didn’t feel scared, this wouldn’t be a thing,” said Putzier, who claimed he cooperated with commands but did talk back to an official who was trying to enforce a lockdown in his pod.

Putzier said he received stitches for his injury and was transferred back to the jail.

The incident was captured on surveillance video, but the sheriff department will not release the footage until the investigation is complete.

Records also show Denver paid out $30,644 for medical expenses since 2017 related to deputies who were exposed to various things such as bodily fluids, gases, airborne particles or infectious diseases.

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