The Denver Department of Public Safety has suspended two police officers for using chemical weapons on harmless people during protests against racism and police violence that rocked the city and country last summer.
Officer Derek Streeter received a 10-day, unpaid suspension for firing pepper balls at people who posed no threat to him three separate times, according to a disciplinary letter first obtained by the Denver Post. The department suspended Officer Diego Archuleta for six days because he used pepper spray on a woman sitting in a car who also posed no threat, a separate letter states.
On May 29, 2020, the second night of protests and riots that erupted after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, Streeter shot pepper balls at someone in a car leaving the area around the Colorado Capitol, according to police documents.
That same night, Streeter discharged his pepper ball gun while talking with two men. The officer had told them to go home, and Streeter shot a pepper ball at one man who had asked where to walk.
Streeter also shot pepper balls in the direction of a woman who was cursing at him while running in the opposite direction.
None of the people against whom Streeter used weapons posed a threat to him, according to the internal investigation. All acts of violence occurred within a short period of time.
“The fact that there was not just one lapse in judgment but three individual instances where Officer Streeter reacted inappropriately within a matter of minutes, is appropriately considered as an aggravating circumstance,” wrote Mary Dulacki, deputy director of safety, in the discipline letter.
Officer Archuleta used excessive violence, too, on May 31. According to his disciplinary letter, he shot pepper spray at a windshield of a car in which a woman sat with her window down. She was stuck in traffic and was scolding police officers for “firing on an unarmed crowd,” the letter states. “What, they gonna kill this guy?” the woman said, according to footage cited in the letter, before Archuleta sprayed the car and walked away.
Archuleta said he regretted his actions and wished he could apologize to the woman in person.
Streeter’s and Archuleta’s cases represent two of dozens of internal investigations into the actions of Denver police officers during last summer’s protests and riots. Late last year, Denver’s Office of the Independent Monitor released a damning report that characterized DPD’s response as dangerous. DPD Chief Paul Pazen committed to reforms as a result.