Aurora woman requests judge not ‘reward half-witted police work’ in mistaken arrest case

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DENVER (KDVR) — An Aurora woman may sue a Denver Police Department officer who mistakenly arrested her while she was receiving treatment for sexual assault at a hospital in 2019.

DPD officers Don Whyde and Brian Long arrested Sarah Cook on Aug. 3, suspecting her in a burglary and assault investigation at 1800 Larimer St. It turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.

Both officers allegedly knew the burglary and assault suspect was a white female with blonde hair, wearing a pink shirt and blue jeans, and being treated at St. Joseph Hospital. The officers instead went to Denver hospital, asking a nurse to show them the woman being transported from downtown.

The nurse pointed out the tall, black-haired Sarah Cook. Cook was then arrested and taken to a Denver jail with no reported measures taken to properly identify her as the suspect. A nurse at the jail suggested Cook return to the hospital due to severe swelling on her lip. She then returned to the jail for a second time.

A detective observing the case viewed surveillance footage handed over from the location of the burglary and assault. The detective then requested the charges against Cook be dropped.

“We feel that police officers and departments receive the benefit of the doubt under the law most times, which isn’t fair or just,” said Cook’s attorney Sean Simeson.  

After Cook was released from jail on bond, she filed claims against Officer Whyde and Officer Long, Denver Hospital and the City of Denver. She asked that U.S. District Court Chief Judge Philip Brimmer not “reward half-witted police work,” saying no officer should have made an arrest based off such vague details.

Though Judge Brimmer dismissed Cook’s claims against Denver Hospital and the City of Denver, he maintained her claim against the arresting authority Officer Whyde remained credible.

“Although Officer Whyde arrested plaintiff without probable cause and could have done more to verify whether plaintiff was the suspect of the burglary, a police officer does not commit false imprisonment merely by arresting someone who happens to be innocent,” said Judge Brimmer.

DPD has confirmed both Whyde and Long are still officers.

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