Arvada tried to keep $100K excessive force settlement secret

Problem Solvers

Travis Cook says he was seriously injured after an Arvada police officer punched him multiple times during an arrest. (Credit: Travis Cook)

ARVADA, Colo. (KDVR) — The City of Arvada reached a $100,000 settlement with Travis Cook after he filed a lawsuit accusing an officer of assaulting him. The settlement was supposed to remain confidential, but was uncovered by the Problem Solvers through a public records request.

The Problem Solvers first reported on an excessive force lawsuit filed by Cook in January of 2020.

Cook accused an officer of repeatedly punching him while he was being arrested on Feb. 11, 2018. Arvada police officers don’t wear body cams, but Cook’s mother began recording the incident with her cell phone after she said an officer repeatedly punched her son in the face without provocation.

Officer Brandon Valdez can be seen on cell phone telling Cook’s mother that Travis had elbowed him in the chin, an allegation she can be heard telling Valdez is completely false. While this happens Cook can be seen in the video bleeding from his face.

Cook was being arrested during a domestic violence incident involving his then-girlfriend.

According to the lawsuit, three Arvada police officers attempted to arrest Cook. Cook said two of the officers asked him to stand up while Valdez asked him to sit back down. Cook said that he did not comply with the contradictory orders.

The lawsuit claims that Valdez then began repeatedly punching Cook in the face. The other officers then threw Cook to the floor, used a Taser on him and then placed him in handcuffs, according to the lawsuit.

Cook was acquitted of domestic violence and assaulting a police officer but was convicted of a misdemeanor count of obstruction a peace officer.

Valdez was later cleared by an Internal Affairs review. The lawsuit alleged he had been involved in 21 use of force reports at that point in his career.

The settlement obtained by the Problem Solvers through a public records request specifically states the terms and conditions of the agreement “are to remain strictly confidential and not be publicized” adding neither Cook or his “counsel shall have any role in suggesting, directing, or otherwise causing any third party to seek or request any such information via CORA or any other mechanism.”

The agreement even orders Cook’s attorney, Anna Holland-Edwards, to state “We have no comment” to any inquiries, which is exactly what she told the Problem Solvers when reached by phone. 

The Arvada Police Department conducted a thorough review of this incident and determined that all APD personnel acted properly and in compliance with city policies. The city agreed to settle the case without an admission of wrongdoing to avoid the costs of prolonged litigation.

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