Denver, CO — A Denver sergeant with a long history of use of force complaints started his trial this week after being arrested and charged with breaking a 17-year-old’s nose and leg with his metal baton. Sgt. Joseph Rodarte was quickly arrested and charged with assault in the 2018 incident which saw an unarmed young man have two bones broken.
The teen’s identity is being withheld since he was a minor who was the victim of an alleged assault. The incident occurred in August of last year when citizens called 911 to report a young black man who was shouting profanities at people in the street and, in one incident, reportedly chased an armed man down the road.
When Rodarte and other officers arrived on scene they were told he did not have any priors and was most likely experiencing a manic episode. The young man, however, told officers he had been taking LSD all day and was tripping out of his mind. Instead of surrendering to police, the young man fled, and a foot-chase ensued.
Rodarte reportedly tripped the boy and began pummeling him with his metal baton. After the young man was apprehended, police claim he attempted to bite one of the officers, an action which provoked more punishment.
Following the attack which was all captured on video the Denver District Attorney filed charges against the veteran officer. According to the arrest affidavit:
Sergeant Rodarte struck (name redacted) once in the upper face, once on the middle back, once on the upper right leg, once on the lower right leg, once on the lower left leg, and once on the upper left leg, for a total six strikes.
The teen, however, remembers very little, calling the incident a “blur” but expressed gratitude the officer was charged with the crime. He told reporters last year:
It’s good to know that he’s off the streets, because he was an aggressive dude…It could have been anyone else.
He also said while his recollection of the day’s events is a bit foggy:
What I do recall from that day is his face. I do remember that he was extremely angry.
In opening comments on day one of Rodarte’s trial, his defense attorney claimed it was not Rodarte who delivered the blows which broke the boy’s leg. Chad Williams told the court his client was only trying to apprehend the young man who was tripping out on hallucinogenics. He said:
These videos are intense and unpleasant, but they show everything…That what he did was only for the purpose of taking this person into custody.
Of course the veteran officer also claimed to be in fear for his life after he was pummeling a downed suspect with an iron baton, something he never mentioned in the videos supposedly. Also worth noting is that at no time did the veteran officer (with a long history of accused violence) search the young man for weapons following his arrest, essentially voided the “fear for my life” argument.
According to the Denver Post, Rodarte has been involved in over 20 complaints of excessive force by citizens throughout his 17-year career. They write:
In 2017, Rodarte was suspended twice for misconduct — once for violating the department’s use-of-force procedures policy and once for using a national crime database for personal reasons.
Almost always, police officers are acquitted for their crimes against the citizenry because the law grants such officers of the peace “qualified immunity” from prosecution. Crimes committed in the line of duty rarely result in charges and most often end with accused officers walking out of court innocent of the crimes for which they were arrested. The same cannot be said about citizens who resist police officers.