DENVER — Two Denver Sheriff Department deputies have been suspended for using excessive force against an inmate at the downtown detention facility in October.
Video shows deputies Daniel Trujillo and Matthew Hammernik distributing dinner to inmates when problems emerge.
An inmate refuses to remove his arms from a flap in his cell door. Initially, the deputies try to talk with the inmate. When that strategy fails, they begin bending the man’s arms in an attempt to shove them back into the cell.
After several minutes, Trujillo can then be seen removing his nunchucks and striking the inmate on the arms.
“You see the deputies struggling to get control. Clearly, they’re not managing the situation very well, but they’re out of options,” said Lisa Calderon with the Colorado Latino Forum.
Calderon reviewed the video several times and is one of one several community members advocating for reform with the department.
“My first reaction is why did it go on for so long? There should have been adequate time for a supervisor or someone to step in,” she said. “We think it’s systematic of a larger issue.”
Calderon said excessive force at the jail has long been a problem.
More than a dozen deputies have been fired or suspended over the past three years for excessive use of force.
“You know, in a lot of ways, it seems like we’re going backward. We brought in a new sheriff to reform the department and in effect we’re having rising assaults,” Calderon said.
Calderon believes the blame extends far beyond the deputies. The inmate in this incident was suicidal and described by deputies as being notoriously violent.
However, Calderon argues that’s no excuse for what happened.
“We focus a lot on the bad apples so it’s real easy to point out some deputies and what they shouldn’t be doing, but we really want to transform the bad barrel,” Calderon said.
Trujillo was also suspended earlier this year for not responding quickly enough to an inmate’s suicide attempt.
Hammernik was recently hired as a deputy. His attorneys argue he never should have been assigned to this unit while still on probation.