DENVER (KDVR) — The Denver Police Department is facing a lawsuit claiming an unnecessary use of force, illegal search of a vehicle and unlawful arrest following a car crash in April 2020.
Keilon Hill, 27, called 911 after a minor crash on Interstate 25 occurred on April 27, 2020. The lawsuit claims Officer Thomas Ludwig glanced into Hill’s car but proceeded to interview the other driver and passenger first.
Bodycam video distributed by Hill’s attorney shows Ludwig speaking to Officer Gary Yampolsky and he is recorded saying, “tried to thread the f— needle between two lanes dude, and he f— side swipes them, and he’s being a d—.” Ludwig continues to tell Yampolsky, referring to HIll, “looks like a turd.”
Warrantless search of Hill’s car, leading to his arrest
While Hill was in the ambulance being checked for injuries, Ludwig observed his car but both doors were closed. When Hill got out of the ambulance, he saw Ludwig inside his car rummaging through his things, the lawsuit stated.
When Hill asked Ludwig why he was searching his car and that he didn’t have a warrant, Ludwig told him he smelled marijuana in his car. Hill told Ludwig it was “not okay for you to search my car.”
The video shared by Hill’s attorney shows Ludwig and Yampolsky grabbing Hill and pushing him against the hood of his car. The officers handcuffed Hill and the lawsuit says they “used substantial force when effectuating the arrest.”
Ludwig asked Hill why he was getting in his face and Yampolsky asked him why he was “stepping to the cops?” Yampolsky told Hill he was “being an a—” while they were walking him to the patrol car.
Hill asked the officers what he was being arrested for and Ludwig told him he wanted to see if he was intoxicated but did not do a field sobriety test, the lawsuit stated.
Yampolsky turned off his body-worn camera after putting Hill in the back of his patrol car, the lawsuit said. Hill explained to the officers he was a college student trying to get home to do some homework and the officers responded that they didn’t care what “cheap ass college” he went to.
Commanding officer’s interaction with Hill
Cpl. Barry Stark arrived, took Hill out of the patrol car and repeatedly asked him if he was injured. Hill repeatedly responded that he needed to be checked out by a doctor in order to determine whether or not he was hurt.
Stark then instructed the officers to take Hill to the Denver County Jail and “do paperwork on him.” When he put him back in the patrol car, Hill asked why he was being arrested. Stark told him he would let him know and closed the door, bodycam video shared by Hill’s attorney showed.
Hill was eventually transported to jail, where he was held for nearly 24 hours before being released on bond, the lawsuit said. He was never checked out by any medical personnel while he was in custody.
What happened after Hill’s arrest
The lawsuit says that Hill was charged with interference with police authority, which he pled not guilty to. The city attorney voluntarily entered a motion to dismiss the case claiming the city would not be able to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt and the court dismissed it the same day.
Two days after his release, Hill was diagnosed with a closed head injury, cervical strain, strain of
the thoracic region, a right shoulder injury, and paresthesia of his right upper limb at a local hospital according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit is seeking compensation for Hill’s physical injuries and mental health treatment caused by the arrest.
DPD’s response to the lawsuit
DPD released the probable cause statement in Hill’s arrest, accusing him of threatening behavior.
“I went to the ambulance to ask Mr. Hill his side of the story. As I opened the door the paramedic was telling Hill to get out and that he will not be threatening them in any way,” Yampolsky wrote. “The paramedic stated that Mr. Hill was not injured and does not need any medical assistance. Mr. Hill stepped out and began to walk over towards his vehicle where Officer Ludwig was standing looking into the vehicle. Mr. Hill got in Officer Ludwig’s face and rocked his shoulders back in a fighting stance. Officer Ludwig and I thought an assault by Mr. Hill was impending. Mr. Hill was placed on top of the hood of his vehicle and placed into custody without incident.”
The DPD records administrator responded to FOX31’s request for information with this statement:
A complaint was received and reviewed by the Internal Affairs Bureau of the Denver Police Department. A review of the evidence in the case, including the body-worn camera video, did not support the allegations of inappropriate force.
However, the Department recognized the language used by Officer Ludwig was inappropriate and he was counseled and reminded to maintain his professionalism during the course of his duties.
This case was reviewed by the Denver District Attorney and was declined for further charges. The Office of the Independent Monitor reviewed the case and approved the declination of further investigation.
The department sent a letter to Hill following the reviews and decisions made explaining why his allegations were declined.