DENVER — FOX31 Denver has confirmed that the FBI Public Corruption Unit is looking into the actions of a small group of Denver Police officers and if the department properly investigated a use of force incident.
The investigation stems from a series of FOX31 Denver reports into an incident which occurred Aug. 14 in a parking lot near 5th and Federal.
- Did officers use excessive force during the arrest of a suspected drug user?
- Did officers illegally search a witness’s electronic video files without his consent?
Witness Levi Frasier recorded the incident in which a uniformed officer punched David Flores repeatedly in the face. Police have said the officer, who was assisting with a drug sting, was trying to get the suspect to take narcotics out of his mouth.
When Flores’ pregnant girlfriend, Mayra Lazos-Guerrero, tried to intervene on his behalf, the same officer gave her a “leg sweep” causing her to fall face first into the asphalt.
Flores’ attorney, Benjamin Hartford said he believes police were way out of line.
“When I looked at this case, this was a situation that didn’t presented itself as not a one-time thing. Didn’t present itself as a one-off,” Hartford said. “The way the officers responded and what they did and what they said, it didn’t look like their first rodeo so to speak.”
Frasier has also said that a after he recorded the violent arrest on his tablet, police seized it.
“When he took it, I said ‘Hey! You can’t do that. You need a warrant for that!’” Frasier said.
“It was very intimidating,” he said. “I have never been more nervous in my life for something I didn’t even know what was happening.”
Frasier claimed officers searched through his video files then returned the tablet and the video clip of the arrest was gone.
Later on while back at his house, Frasier said he synched his tablet to an electronic cloud and retrieved the video.
Mark Silverstein, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, called the police action a “beating” and said it was “a disproportionate use of force.”
He also called the confiscation of the video “disturbing.”
“This is a case that concerns us because police officers who are engaged in misconduct have a motive to intimidate citizens into staying quiet,” Silverstein said. “They have motive to see that evidence of their misconduct doesn’t go anywhere.”
HALO camera may have recorded arrest as well
Police radio traffic from the time of the arrest indicated there is another videotape of the incident besides Frasier’s.
Denver Police records also indicate they have had it their possession for months.
That video, taken from a HALO bubble camera located about four blocks from the arrest site, reportedly runs past the time when Frasier stopped recording the arrest.
A Denver Police investigation last summer cleared the officers saying the force was necessary per policy. The lieutenant who made that determination did not see Frasier’s video.
Denver Police Cmdr. Matt Murray said the department will review Frasier’s claims and if disciplinary action is warranted, the department will be transparent and let the public know.
Denver Police Chief, Robert White, did not respond to our request for comment on the FBI investigation.