Denver sheriff’s deputy fired for drag racing incident while transporting inmates

Problem Solvers

DENVER (KDVR) – A Denver Sheriff’s Deputy has been fired for his role in a drag-racing incident on I-25 near Castle Rock in Mid-January. Deputy Jason Martinez was terminated June 30, according to a disciplinary document obtained by the Problem Solvers.

Martinez was in the passenger seat in a transport van being driven by fellow deputy James Grimes. The two deputies were transporting three inmates from the Bent County Jail to the Denver Jail when a Colorado State Police airplane spotted the van going 100 miles an hour in a construction zone where the post speed limit was 60 mph.

A 911 caller said two vehicles, a red Chevrolet Silverado and a Denver Sheriff’s van were engaged in a speeding contest on I-25 in Douglas County.  Troopers soon pulled over both drivers and cited the driver of the Chevy Silverado with a DUI.

The trooper who pulled over the sheriff’s van said the driver, Deputy Grimes, told him he “had an inmate in the back who needed to urinate urgently” and denied he was racing the red Chevy.

Grimes was ticketed for six violations including reckless driving.  He would later tell an internal affairs investigator, “Getting them, them being the three prisoners, from Point A to Point B is the number one concern of mine. It is my number one priority while at work.”

Sometime after his internal affairs interview Grimes went on medical leave before his case progressed to a disciplinary hearing. His case has effectively been stalled until he returns to regular duty.

But his shotgun passenger, Deputy Martinez was fired last week after 20 years with the department.

On February 6, 2020 an inmate (identified by his initials R.G.) who was a passenger in the van at the time of the incident, filed a grievance against Deputy Grimes and Deputy Martinez. His Grievance states, “Deputy Grimes and Deputy Martinez violated the rules of the Denver Sheriff’s Department by not keeping me safe that day due to Deputy Grimes’ reckless driving while transporting me.”

During his interview R.G. would tell internal affairs, “Holy Smokes!’ I mean we were making cars look they were sitting still. Just weaving traffic, especially the construction zone.  We were flying.” 

Inmate R.G. also told investigators, ‘That was crazy, Wow!’ And, ‘I was thinking what about if we crash, man? We probably wouldn’t even be here. So that was crazy.’”

It turns out Deputy Martinez was stopped by Colorado State Patrol three months earlier while driving a sheriff’s transport  van.

A trooper has clocked Martinez going 90 miles an hour on Highway 9 south of Kremmling on Oct. 22, 2019.

Trooper Jason Wunsch let Martinez go with a verbal warning but told internal affairs that Martinez, “Kind of had just a cavalier attitude about the whole thing….It’s one of those ones that I’ll tell you, to this day, I still feel like I should have wrote him.”

On that particular day Deputy Grimes was the passenger and Martinez was the driver.  Trooper Wunsch said it took two miles to catch them, adding, “I do remember telling ‘em, ‘you know, slow the hell down, dumb-asses, because Rabbit Ears is pretty icy right now.”

Deputy Martinez told internal affairs he didn’t remember being stopped for speeding before the Castle Rock incident.  When asked if he knew Deputy Grimes was “driving unusually fast” during the January trip to the Denver jail, he said he didn’t know because he wasn’t paying attention.

“I think more of my focus was on the guy and trying to maintain, you know, and see-make sure that, you know, we weren’t in danger, you know, or that he wasn’t going to pull out a gun and shoot us,” Martinez said.

When asked why he simply didn’t call 911 Martinez said, “He wanted to create some distance first and then he was going to call.” Adding, “You got to understand, our adrenaline was going and everything, you now. We had, you know, it was split-split second decisions….this whole thing felt like five minutes.”

In fact, investigators say from the time of the first 911 call from a concerned driver to the time the Sheriff’s van was pulled over, the speeding had lasted 22 minutes.

Deputy Grimes would later tell an internal affairs investigator, “I did the best I could under the circumstances…I’m not making this up.”

Mary Dulacki, Deputy Director for the Department of Safety wrote in her termination letter to Deputy Martinez that he, “Blatantly disregarded his responsibility to the inmates in his care. Deputy Martinez’s misconduct had a negative impact on the image and reputation of the Denver Sheriff Department with the public – especially considering the widespread coverage of the incident in the local media.”

Martinez had previously been suspended 45 days in 2006 for playing cards on duty and 15 days in 2010 for sleeping on duty.

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