DENVER -- A Denver Sheriff's deputy was suspended in late July for trying to intimidate a jail inmate with his taekwondo skills, according to a disciplinary letter released this week.
Deputy Roberto Roena was involved in a fight with inmate John Cardenas in April of 2013. The deputy initially lied about the circumstances surrounding the fight, but came clean after surveillance video surfaced. He was suspended for 90 days.
According to Roena's disciplinary letter, Cardenas was angry because he and other inmates were told they only had a 30-minute break outside their cells rather than an hour. Deputies guarding his cell appeared to ignore him and left a security door open.
Roena, a martial arts instructor at several area schools, was visiting other deputies at the scene, discussing his training routine, police said. As he threw a sidekick into the air, Cardenas taunted him, quipping, "that isn't a kick," the disciplinary letter said.
Roena then turned toward the inmate, raised his hands into a fighting stance and attempted to intimidate Cardenas with more non-contact punches and kicks. The incident was captured on video.
The inmate extended his hands through the open door in what appeared to be an attempt to defend against the deputy's moves.
Roena then threw a full kick at the inmate's head. The two began grappling and fighting, sprawling into the hallway, according to the letter and video. The two hit the ground and other deputies jumped in to help Roena.
After the fight, Roena wrote in a use of force report that Cardenas had attacked him after being warned to back off. The video did not bear out that version of events, officials said.
"At the time of the initial interaction, inmate Cardenas posed no objectively reasonable threat to Deputy Roena's safety," the letter said. "It was only after Deputy Roena's poor decision to engage inmate Cardenas that inmate Cardenas demonstrated potentially physically aggressive behavior."