Denver, CO — Two Denver Sheriff Department deputies have been suspended following an investigation into the use of excessive force on an inmate under their control. The deputies were seen on video using excessive force against their opponent — a single arm.
Deputy Daniel Trujillo, who's been with the department since 2014, received a 60-day suspension for his role in the incident. Deputy Matthew Hammernik, who has only been with the department since 2016, received an 18-day suspension.
The incident happened last October when deputies were distributing food to inmates. The inmate in question happened to be mentally ill, suicidal, and was known as a problem in the jail. When it came time to get him his food, the inmate stuck his arm through the door and refused to pull it back in.
As seen in the video, once the inmate had his arm through the door, a stand off between the cops and the arm began. Lasting over 5 minutes, the deputies resorted to multiple violent tactics — instead of simply stepping back, calling a supervisor, or just waiting.
At first, the deputies began twisting the mentally ill man's arm in an attempt to shove it back through the door. It looked as if they were going to snap his bone as they rolled it around in a futile attempt at shoving the arm back through.
At this point, a supervisor should've been called. However, they pulled out their nunchaku instead.
The nunchaku is used by deputies for self-defense and to control people. However, they were used to beat an inmate's non-threatening arm in this case.
Trujillo pulled out his nunchaku and began striking the inmate’s arm repeatedly, but this had no effect.
During the struggle, the man's arm became lodged in the door and the deputies helped him to free it. However, at this point, they wrapped their nunchaku around the man's arm, continuously applying more and more pressure for several minutes. Finally, likely due to the fact that he was injured, the inmate pulled his arm back in the cell and the flap was closed.
According to FOX 31, Trujillo was also suspended earlier this year for not responding quickly enough to an inmate's suicide attempt. Hammernik was recently hired as a deputy. His attorneys argue he never should have been assigned to this unit while still on probation.
Recommended for You
As the Denver Post reports,
The incident was not the first time Denver deputies have used excessive force against an inmate who refused to keep his arms and hands inside his cell.
Earlier this year, Deputy Thao Nguyen was suspended for 10 days after he used his Taser to shock the fingers of an inmate who would not remove his fingers from a door flap. That incident happened in 2015.
In 2016, Deputy Steven Roybal was fired for kicking a cell-door flap and smashing an inmate’s fingers. The inmate had become agitated during breakfast and had thrown hot coffee and tray through the slot and had refused to move his fingers.
Trujillo and Hammernik claim that their incompetent and violent response to the man's arm was due to the lack of training they received. Deputies told investigators they had not been trained in regaining control of door flaps from mentally ill inmates who may force their arms through them.
Trujillo and Hammernik have since appealed their suspensions according to Daelene Mix, spokeswoman for the Denver Department of Public Safety.
“It remains the department’s view the decision by deputies Trujillo and Hammernik to engage with the inmate was completely unnecessary,” Mix said. “He was in a locked cell and that greatly reduces any threat he posed.”
The deputies' punishment certainly seems worthy given all the facts and the ridiculous video above. However, it sheds light on the lack of punishment other officers enjoy for acts of brutality far worse this one.
Ehud Halevy, 22, is one such victim of brutality, in which his attackers, two NYPD cops, were not punished. Halevy was sleeping in a back room of the Aliya Institute in Crown Heights, when a security guard called police. Although youths were sometimes allowed to sleep there, the guard was apparently alarmed because Halevy was shirtless and not wearing pants.
“When we watched the video and saw some of New York’s finest behaving in a not very fine way, brutalizing an individual for absolutely no reason, it was just something horrible,” said Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind.
Despite having permission to be there, having broken no law, and police having no reason for their violence — only the taxpayers of New York were held liable — not the cops.