Victims injured by DPD officer in LoDo shooting want accountability after they say police failed to provide support

“They changed our lives forever and they keep making us relive it by not owning up to their bad apples, as they would call it.”
5 min. read
Bailey Alexander (left) and Yekalo Weldehiwet sit in the Rathod Mohamedbhai law office in Denver's Five Points neighborhood. July 20, 2022.
Bailey Alexander (left) and Yekalo Weldehiwet sit in the Rathod Mohamedbhai law office in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood. July 20, 2022.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Four people struck by bullets fired by Denver police officers after the police opened fire into a large crowd last year are speaking out.

The four have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the officer who shot them. 

Bailey Alexander, Yekalo Weldehiwet, Willis Small IV and Mark Bess were all severely injured by Officer Brandon Ramos' gunfire in July 2022. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday morning in Denver District Court by the Rathod Mohamedbhai law firm.

According to victims, the number one reason they filed the lawsuit is to hold Ramos and the Denver Police Department accountable for their actions. 

"And to make sure that police officers aren't able to go out into the community and continue to injure innocent people," Alexander said on Tuesday. They said police failed to uphold their promises of providing support for victims.

Denver police on Tuesday declined to comment on the matter, citing the pending litigation and pending criminal cases. 

"We can confirm that Officer Ramos is still on unpaid leave," the department said via email.

Alexander said she was shot in her right shoulder and upper arm. That bullet traveled through her and hit Weldehiwet, shattering the humerus in his right arm. Small was hit on the outside of his left foot. The force of the shot to Bess's upper right chest knocked him to the ground, and the bullet caused second-degree burns. He said he hasn't heard from police since receiving an apology from the police chief after the shooting -- which he doesn't believe was sincere. 

Small said he too received an apology after the shooting, but also believes it was insincere because police didn't follow up. Civil rights attorney Ciara Anderson, a lawyer for the four, expanded on this point.

"A big driving force behind filing the lawsuit is that there have been promises by Denver and the Denver Police Department that weren't fulfilled," Anderson said. "They promised to support the victims through this process to keep them informed about the investigation, to offer them victim services and make sure that their mental and physical wellbeing was taken care of. That has not happened."

Bess said he's lucky to be alive.

"We want justice and we're tired of getting thrown to the side with no regard for how we're doing. They changed our lives forever and they keep making us relive it by not owning up to their bad apples, as they would call it," Bess said Tuesday.

Ramos is the only officer facing criminal charges in the shooting. This is the second lawsuit he faces from people in the crowd who were injured. A grand jury indicted him on at least a dozen counts including second-degree assault and reckless endangerment. 

The shooting occurred as people filled the streets after bars closed in LoDo around 1:30 a.m. on July 17, 2022, near the 2000 block of Larimer Street. Denver police officers, including Ramos, looked for a suspect, Jordan Waddy, who had been involved in a fight before the shooting.

Police said they gave verbal commands for Waddy to stop as they approached him. When police confronted him, police say Waddy backed up onto a sidewalk between a vehicle and a food truck, and disregarded the command. They say Waddy struggled and eventually removed a black semiautomatic handgun from his jacket pocket. That's when three officers fired at least seven rounds toward him and into the crowd.

Three officers, including Ramos, fired their guns that night, but Denver District Attorney Beth McCann said in January that the other two officers who fired their guns will not face criminal charges because both the district attorney and grand jury found that their actions were legally justified. The Ramos indictment said the other two officers reasonably believed they were in physical danger from Waddy after they saw him pull a gun from his jacket.

Ramos was not in immediate danger when he fired his gun, according to the charges in the indictment. Ramos fired his gun twice and hit six innocent bystanders, police said. Waddy was also shot, and all survived. 

"Officer Ramos' decision to shoot was not legally justified because it was reckless, unreasonable and unnecessary for the purpose of protecting himself or other officers, and he consciously disregarded an unjustifiable risk of injury to the crowd behind Mr. Waddy," the January indictment reads.

The lawsuit takes the indictment a step further. 

"Officer Ramos' heedless actions resulted in devastating and life-altering injuries to his victims, the Plaintiffs in this action. Bailey Alexander, Yekalo Weldehiwet, Willis Small IV, and Mark Bess will each bear the resulting scars for the remainder of their lives," the lawsuit states. 

The lawsuit says that Alexander, Weldehiwet, Small and Bess have incurred economic damages related to medical care and lost wages, as well as pain, suffering, emotional distress, and loss in quality of life.

"Perhaps worse, [they] now live in a state of anxiety and fear in public settings, and particularly in crowds," the suit states. It says the four plaintiffs' emotional injuries and loss of quality of life are substantial.

The victims said they are getting mental therapy, and some are still going through physical therapy for their injuries. Weldehiwet said his arm is currently at about 60 percent strength.

"I still have a ways to go, and I'm still dealing with this mentally," Weldehiwet said. "My anxiety is at an all-time high consistently. I thought by now it would get better, but it's not something I've seen change."

Civil rights attorney Crist Whitney, also a lawyer representing the four, said Tuesday he believes his clients have a strong case, and called the officers' actions "reckless and outrageous."

The amount of monetary damages being sought has not been specified yet, according to the law firm. Right now they are mainly seeking police accountability and justice for the victims, Anderson said.

Recent Stories