Four Denver police officers approached a home in Denver in January 2009. They had heard that there was heavy foot traffic to the home on Stuart Street, and a neighbor suspected prostitution or drug business was happening at the home. So began a legal fight that may only be resolved today, seven years later.
As it turned out, the family living in the home had only recently moved there, and the people referenced by the tipster apparently had been evicted a month earlier — but the officers didn’t know that, because they hadn’t done any investigation before they decided to “knock and talk,” according to a summary judgement in the lawsuit that resulted.
The residents of the home allege that the police officers essentially rushed the door as soon as it was opened. They said Officer Bryce Jackson placed a young man in a “choke hold” and “slammed him” onto the sidewalk outside before handcuffing him.
Sergeant Robert Motyka, meanwhile, allegedly punched another of the people in the house “in the mouth,” according to the judgement, which notes no dispute of that fact by the city.
All four of the civilians in the house were arrested on charges of assault or interference, including a 15-year-old boy, and soon after released. Some of the charges were dismissed and the defendants were cleared of all others in jury trials. The legal battle, however, would last years longer.
In a lawsuit, the four plaintiffs — Daniel Martinez Jr., Nathan Martinez, Daniel Martinez III and Jonathan Martinez — argued that the Denver Police department had failed to train or supervise its employees and that the officers had made “false arrests” and unconstitutional entry to the home, among other claims.
In September 2014, a jury found for the plaintiffs on most of their claims, awarding $1.25 million in punitive damages and $540,000 in actual damages. The city’s attorney disputed those fees.
Today, the Denver City Council is set to finally settle the matter by voting to pay out $1.6 million to the plaintiffs’ law firm.
The officers named in the lawsuit were Jason Valdez, Robert Martinez, Robert Motyka and Bryce Jackson, along with the city itself. All four are still with the department, and none were disciplined following an internal investigation, according to DPD.