City: “Male peacock” sheriff’s deputy fired for “wholly unnecessary” use of force at Denver jail

The incident happened the afternoon of Jan. 28, 2016, at the Downtown Detention Center, according to a letter from the city of Denver.

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

Former deputy Darrin Turner, described by one colleague as a “male peacock,” was fired last month nearly a year after an argument over a blanket allegedly led him to take an inmate to a room “where there’s no cameras” and punch and choke him, according to a letter from the city of Denver.

The incident happened the afternoon of Jan. 28, 2016, at the Downtown Detention Center. Turner was dealing with inmates who were in temporary cells, awaiting transport to the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office.

As they were preparing to leave, two deputies noticed that one inmate, dubbed “DR” in the report, had a bulge under his shirt, which turned out to be a blanket. “DR” claimed a deputy had given him the blanket because his jacket was missing.

This discovery preceded some arguments between Turner and some of the inmates, according to the timeline in the report. “DR” said he tried to intervene in an argument between Turner and another inmate, telling them that both were “acting just like a child.”

“DR” said that Turner responded by saying he would take one of the inmates to “where there’s no cameras.” Turner denied this, but another deputy affirmed it.

Turner then reportedly escorted “DR” down a corridor. As they walked, the deputy reportedly took off his glasses mid-stride and handed them to another deputy, saying, “Here, hold these, I don’t want them to get broken.”

Turner later said he had taken his glasses off because the inmate “was defiant and resistive,” and he “had a concern that the inmate would assault” him. He later claimed the inmate’s fists were balled as they walked, despite the fact that he wasn’t in a position to see the inmate’s hands, according to video footage.

The argument escalated, as the other deputies told the Denver police, with yelling, cursing and at least one exclamation of, “Don’t call me a n****r.”  Another inmate said she had heard the deputy say “I’ll take you in this room and I’ll show you something.”

At some point, one deputy overheard Turner repeatedly saying, “You’re just a boy.”

Turner and the inmate at some point entered the “release room.”

One deputy, Pacheco, said that he saw the inmate take a swing at Turner. Video footage showed Turner slamming the inmate onto a ledge about two seconds after they entered the room, wrapping his hand around his throat and hitting the inmate in the face, according to the report. The inmate was being restrained by Pacheco when Turner struck him, according to another deputy.

Another deputy named Gardner “forcibly removed” Turner from the situation.

Turner’s justification:

“The reason I did it, Chief, the … inmate was saying that he was going to fuck me up. Before I took him to the back to counsel him, he was calling me a n****r,” Turner reportedly said at a disciplinary hearing.

Deputy Gardner, though, said he “did not believe inmate DR was the aggressor,” and compared Turner to a “male peacock.” For his part, Turner denied that he was ever mad or that there had been a heated argument.

Turner also was accused of telling another deputy to omit the part about the glasses from her report on the incident. He denied that.

Turner’s previous record at the department included reprimands for unauthorized leave, punctuality, unauthorized use of equipment and disobeying a lawful order, all between 2009 and 2012.

The Denver Police Department investigated the matter, but the district attorney declined to prosecute because there was “no reasonable likelihood of conviction,” the report stated.

Turner was fired because the “preponderance of evidence” indicated that he had “escalated a wholly unnecessary use of force situation for entirely punitive purposes,” among other findings.

“Deputy Turner’s egregious misconduct, willful disregard of department rules, and unwillingness to take responsibility for his actions is unacceptable. Based on the facts and circumstances of the case, termination was appropriate,” Department of Safety spokeswoman Daelene Mix said in a written release.