Denver deputy receives two-week suspension after deputies piled on top of inmate

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DENVER (KDVR) – A Denver Sheriff Department deputy has been suspended for 14 days for failing to take proper action in a jail incident in which multiple deputies piled on top of an inmate as he was being moved to a new cell.

Some of the deputies and the inmate were hospitalized after the incident.

“The department has concern regarding your ability to act responsibly and to conduct yourself appropriately while on duty,” said the disciplinary letter addressed to Sgt. Darryn Brown, a sergeant employed by the department since 2004. 

“Your conduct has been in violation of the Department’s policies and procedures. There is an immediate need for improvement in this area,” the letter said.

Brown is accused of failing to create a “planned course of action,” when instructing a few deputies to transfer an inmate, Howard Thomas Putzier, from one cell to another.

In October 2019, three deputies started to transfer the inmate, but according to the disciplinary letter, “approximately only ten seconds pass before another seven deputies begin entering the same cell.”

Several deputies started to pile on top of Putzier, using various force techniques like “fist strikes, OC spray, two tasers, and OPNs (a non-lethal controlling device used by law enforcement).”

Putzier was being transferred because he had been argumentative with the jail staff by “cursing and arguing with the Sergeant.”

However, Sergeant Brown told investigators he believed Putzier would be cooperative despite his previous verbal aggression.

“By his recollection, after giving (the inmate) direction that he would be relocated…Sergeant Brown noticed (the inmate’s) apparent compliance,” the disciplinary letter said. “Sergeant Brown explained that a Planned Course of Action falls under use of force, and as such, a plan is for, ‘when you know you’re go [sic] to have a use of force – when you absolutely, 100 percent, know you’re gonna [sic] have a use of force.’  Sergeant Brown explained that, in a situation in which he expected compliance from (the inmate), he would not, ‘set a course of action to get nine deputies to go in there and thrown him on the ground.'”

The disciplinary letter said Brown’s “failure to take the time to create a Planned Course of Action…created a significant risk, both to deputies and to inmates.”

Putzier, who said his eye required stitches, was accused of injuring two female deputies who were caught in the melee. The Denver district attorney initially charged him with four felony assault charges, but those charges were later dismissed in exchange for his guilty plea to a misdemeanor “assault on a peace officer” charge.

“I was trying to keep from being hit,” said Putzier. “I was afraid they were going to kill me, honestly.”

“This video is a great training video for what not to do in a jail,” said Mary Dodge, a criminology professor at the University of Colorado Denver, who reviewed the case on behalf of the FOX31 Problem Solvers. “It actually made me a little sick to my stomach when I watched it.”

The FOX31 Problem Solvers attempted to reach Brown for a comment but have not yet heard back.

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