DENVER (KDVR) — A man who said he suffered broken facial bones during a police incident in 2019 filed a federal excessive force lawsuit against the City and County of Denver this week.
“I don’t think it was right to get beat up for something I didn’t do,” said Aaron Hernandez Sr., 62, who was elbowed in the face by an officer who said Hernandez delivered a “hard knee strike” to his groin during a scuffle.
“I don’t like them hurting people when they’re innocent, and I was innocent,” said Hernandez, “and the laws need to be changed.”
The incident occurred in a church parking lot in June 2019. Hernandez and his son, Aaron Hernandez Jr., were sitting in a parked car when police approached the vehicle and discovered the younger Hernandez — who was seated in the driver’s seat — had an outstanding warrant.
Hernandez Sr. did not have a criminal record, according to a Colorado court records search and his attorney, Birk Baumgartner.
While the younger Hernandez was being detained, Hernandez Sr. started to get out of the passenger side of the vehicle and a scuffle ensued.
“Based upon his observed demeanor, my impression was that if he exited the vehicle he would attempt to interfere with the arrest. In a non-confrontational tone I attempted to de-escalate the situation by placing my hands out and advising him to remain seated inside the vehicle,” one officer wrote in a summary of the incident.
The body-camera video shows the officer grabbing Hernandez Sr.’s hand and wrist. He immediately said, “Let go of me,” and the officer replied, “Stop. Stop,” as he continued to stand up.
Hernandez Sr. told the officer that he was hurting “really bad” and that he couldn’t move.
He later explained to the Problem Solvers that he recently had surgery and separately, suffered from severe sciatica pain in his legs.
“The sciatica pain was so intense that you know, my leg, I have to keep it straight, and when I bend it, it hurt,” he said.
Eventually the officers cuffed Hernandez Sr.. during a brief altercation in which Hernandez Sr. screamed about his pain and officers alleged he kicked “the s–t” out of them.
“My leg is freaking hurting so bad,” Hernandez Sr. said in the footage. “Well, now your face is going to hurt, too,” an officer replied.
Baumgartner said he helped Hernandez file the lawsuit against the City of County of Denver in effort to change the culture at the Denver Police Department.
“The police officers lied in their reports several times in order to justify their attack on Mr. Hernandez,” said Baumgartner, who said his client was charged with felony assault on a peace officer after the incident.
“The culture in the Denver Police Department has to fundamentally change. There is a culture of force first — a culture of impunity, and the Denver police are out of control,” Baumgartner said.
The Denver District Attorney’s Office confirmed Hernandez had been charged with a felony and a misdemeanor for the incident, but those charges were dropped.
The Denver Police Department declined an interview about the incident, but Det. Nick Rogers, the president of the Denver Police Protective Association, said he felt the charges should not have been dismissed.
“After viewing the officers (sic) body cam footage, it is clear that both officers were victim’s (sic) of a violent assault. The Denver District Attorney’s office dismissed this case without ever contacting any officer involved,” he said. “DA Beth McCann should be ashamed of herself for such a reckless and embarrassing decision. It’s no wonder she testified in front of the state legislature supporting a no cash bail state. This lawsuit is s (sic) direct result of her incompetence as a District Attorney. The video speaks for itself and the officer’s actions. They did nothing wrong,” he said.
The Problem Solvers are reaching out to McCann for a comment.