A Denver police officer was issued a six-day suspension last month for violating the department’s use of force policy when he twice used pepper spray against protestors during the 2020 movement against police violence and racism.
Officer Jesse Trudel violated the department’s rules when he used his spray on May 29, 2020, during the start of what would be known as the George Floyd protests in Denver, according to a disciplinary letter dated Jan. 10 and provided to Denverite by the city’s public safety department.
The letter says Trudel, a former EMT and paramedic, targeted a protestor with the pepper spray out of frustration, rather than a justifiable need to use it.
Trudel was one of 153 officers who responded to the event as protesters gathered near 14th Avenue and Broadway, which the disciplinary letter said lasted from 5 p.m. on May 28 to about 2:30 a.m. on May 29.
He is the third Denver police officer who has faced suspension for using excessive force during the protest. Officers Diego Archuelta and Derek Sreeter were both suspended last year for violating the department’s rules while responding to the protests.
Trudel’s own body-worn camera footage shows him using pepper spray in the early morning hours of May 29, according to the disciplinary letter. There were several protestors around Trudel and other officers, but the letter notes none appear to be holding weapons or attempting to cause harm. Many had their cell phones out to record the officer’s actions.
Around the 7:40 mark of his body-worn camera footage, Trudel lifts his pepper spray into the air and says “I’m going to fog this mother******.” He then pepper sprayed a protestor in the face after a chemical munition landed near the protestor, who had her hands down and wasn’t throwing any objects.
After he used the spray, protesters told Trudel it unnecessary. He then told them to step back and sprayed it again about a minute later as protesters verbally heckled him and other officers. The disciplinary letter states this second deployment wasn’t justified, since there was no apparent provocation to use it.
Trudel told investigators he used the spray because the protest had turned unlawful. “It was clear to me that the parties engaged in this activity were not leaving, and the level of violence was increasing,” he said, adding he was under “constant attack” from rocks, bottles and incendiary devices that night. He said he feared for his personal safety and that of his fellow cops.
Following the protests, the Office of the Independent Monitor released a report in December 2020 saying police mishandled its response during the protests and at times violated its own policies.