DENVER -- Two people who complained to Denver’s Internal Affairs Bureau about an officer’s use of pepper spray during October’s Zombie Walk have been charged with providing false information to police.
Lisa Lebrun of Littleton and Joel Gutierrez, both 33, believe the misdemeanor counts are retaliation for complaints each filed separately a few days after the October 18th incident.
“They basically treated me like I`m an enemy of the state because I made a police report against,” said Lebrun. Gutierrez added, “I want some justice, I don`t think it`s right." Neither police nor the city attorney would talk to Fox 31 on the record because both defendants go on trial in Denver’s Municipal Court next week.
FOX31 Denver has reviewed their arrest warrants and a summary of evidence completed by an Internal Affairs detective after both citizens filed complaints.
Police reports say an officer working off-duty for the McDonald’s at the 16th Street Mall and Cleveland Place used pepper spray to break up a fight between two males.
Police reports suggest Lebrun got sprayed because she was too close to the two men who were fighting, one of whom police believes, was a friend of Lebrun’s.
Both Lebrun and her friend tell FOX31 he was not involved in the fight and she feels the officer sprayed her for no good reason, which is why she filed the complaint.
Lebrun shared a photo of her face from the day after the pepper spray incident. It shows her eyes still swollen. “I was having an allergic reaction to the chemicals in it,” said Lebrun.
Gutierrez says he and his family were walking past the McDonald's when his 12-year-old son and his son’s 9-year-old friend both got sprayed by the same officer who was trying to break up the fight.
“They’re screaming and they said it feels like a thousand jalapenos in their eyes you know,” said Gutierrez.
Body cam video worn by an offer at the scene shows Gutierrez screaming at police demanding the badge number of the officer who sprayed his son. Instead Gutierrez was arrested for police interference and spent a night in jail.
Gutierrez admits he lost his temper that night and threatened to sue police. Hospital records confirm he suffered a fractured hand that Gutierrez blames on rough treatment during his arrest.
Police reports say jail video shows Gutierrez likely fractured his own hand by banging on his cell door. Gutierrez says his Public Defender told him the video does not show that but FOX31's requests to view the video were denied by Denver’s Department of Public Safety.
In fact, FOX31 Denver requested multiple videos including surveillance video form the McDonald's that shows the officer using pepper spray. Those requests were denied because of the pending charges and upcoming trials.
Gutierrez says he filed his complaint because he felt the actions of the officer who sprayed the two boys was excessive and inappropriate. “Even if it wasn`t any of my family members, it isn’t right for anybody to get pepper sprayed.”
Gutierrez says he had no idea there was a warrant for his arrest when police showed up early at his house January 30 to arrest him for false information. His arrest affidavit states, “At no time did the officer point the spray at the children, or directly spray the children."
The day before Lebrun was picked up while driving home late at night. She says two cop cars pulled her over and handcuffed her in front of her 10-year-old son, “They`re like ‘oh you have a warrant for your arrest' and 'I`m excuse me?'”
FOX31 shared the Summary of Evidence with attorney Qusiar Mohamedbhai who has won cases of excessive force against Denver law enforcement in the past. “It`s Denver being Denver protecting their own, the police protecting the police, the city attorney being part of the problem once again.”
Mohamedbhai says there’s nothing in the police reports he read that would warrant misdemeanor charges against Gutierrez or Lebrun, “This certainly appears to be retaliation against the community for bringing allegations of excessive force and brutality against the Denver Police Department."
Mohamedbhai says charging someone with a crime for making a good faith report with internal affairs will have a chilling effect.
Joel Gutierrez says he regrets filing a complaint. “The police are their own gang themselves is how I believe it. The way I see them, the way they act and I don`t really want to get in their way."
Lebrun says she’ll never look at cops the same way. “Now I`m in terrible fear of police officers, which before it was like they`re there to protect and serve. I could call them and I knew they were there to help. Now I don`t know if I want to call a police officer."
Lebrun is scheduled for trial March 23, Gutierrez March 25. FOX31 Denver will follow both cases and update what happens.