Attorney: Denver police held 3 black children at gunpoint, handcuffed unarmed father

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DENVER (KDVR) — The Denver Police Department has launched an internal investigation after a black man filed a complaint alleging officers held his children at gunpoint while he was handcuffed. The incident is caught on body cam footage provided by DPD.

Officers were responding to a 911 call about a black man with a gun sitting in a car in the parking lot of the Safeway located at East 14 Avenue and Krameria Street in Montclair on May 7.

“Stop right there. Stop, because we got a call that you have a gun,” A Denver police officer is heard shouting at Naphtali Israel on body camera footage.

The footage shows the moments Israel, who was unarmed, was handcuffed and searched by DPD while in the parking lot of the Safeway.

“Just a trip to the supermarket and it turned into a nightmare,” Israel said.

Israel had asked his three stepdaughters — ages 14, 7 and 2 — to wait in the car with the doors open after the 2-year-old wanted snacks while he finished shopping.

“My 2-year-old, her mask kept falling down and she wanted snacks, so I said, ‘OK, the only way this is going to go a lot easier, I’m going to have my 14-year-old watch them in the car,'” Israel said.

His finance was at home with their newborn baby. Israel said he wanted to give her a break and get the kids out of the house.

At that same time, a Safeway manager called 911 after a customer told her about a concern in the parking lot.

In the 911 call, the Safeway manager said, “Was wondering if we can get an officer over here right away over here to do a drive-by? I have another customer; they have left the premises. They reported an individual in a gray, silver Cadillac. They are still sitting in our parking lot, a black young male with a white hoodie. The customer that who witnessed and saw it said this gentleman has a gun. That he saw him with a gun, sitting in driver’s seat. Four-door Cadillac.”

A few minutes later, surveillance video from a HALO camera captures police arriving to the parking lot. An officer is seen apparently drawing his weapon at the Cadillac.

“There were children sitting in that car. You pulled your firearm out, you aimed it at the children,” Israel said.

“This cop pulls his gun on the three little girls. There are no tinted windows on this car. It’s broad daylight he had the gun pointed directly on them while screaming directions to get your ‘blank’ hands off the steering wheel,” said David Lane of Killmer, Lane and Newman, LLP.

Lane is representing Israel. He says in the state of Colorado, it’s not a crime to have a gun in the car.

“The Supreme Court has said when you draw a gun on someone, that is a use of force and in order to use that level of force, you have to have probable cause that a crime has been committed,” Lane said.

Israel walks out of the store, utterly confused.

“I don’t know what the hell is going on. I was in there shopping,” Israel is heard telling officers on body-cam footage.

Israel has no gun on his person or in his Cadillac. After officers determine Israel is not the right guy, they let him go. But now he says his children are traumatized and he believes he was unnecessarily detained because of the color of his skin.

“His approach was wrong. He heard African-American, black man, weapon, so now you come with your gun drawn immediately?”

DPD Division Chief Ron Thomas said his officers acted appropriately in this situation given the information they received on the call.

“I don’t perceive his weapon was pointed directly at the individuals in the car. He certainly withdrew his weapon from the holster, and he held it at a tactical position that we call a low-ready position,” Thomas said.

The Denver police sergeant that withdrew his weapon did not have his body camera activated.

“That will be part of the investigation. There are certainly situations where body cameras must be activated and there are certainly exceptions to that if something is rapidly developing and you don’t have time to activate it before you have to take an action for your own safety or safety of another person,” Thomas said.

Israel wants police to be held accountable.

“My children deserve an apology,” Israel said. “I’m tired of the rhetoric. It’s time for real change.”

Denver police reached out to Israel’s attorney to set up a meeting to discuss this situation.

Kris Staaf, a Safeway spokesperson, sent the following statement about the incident:

“The concerned customer, who was African-American, reported that they saw someone, also African-American, in a car in the store parking lot with a gun.   The reporting customer was afraid for his safety and the safety of others. The call speaks for itself and this matter was placed in the hands of Denver Police Department.”

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