Man assaulted by a former Denver police officer during 2023 Nuggets championship files civil rights lawsuit

Elijah Smith was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, brain bleed and nerve damage after the incident.
3 min. read
A parked Denver Police cruiser. Sept. 30, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

As Nuggets fans flooded the streets of downtown Denver a year ago to celebrate the Nuggets’ NBA championship, Elijah Smith, a 27-year-old father of four, was among them.

He hasn’t been the same since.

A viral video shows the moment Smith was body slammed to the concrete headfirst by now-former Denver Police Officer Adam Glasby, who was working an off-duty security job.

This week, attorneys for Smith filed suit for damages the California man suffered in the incident.

Mari Newman, one of Smith’s attorneys, said that the viral video not only serves as a key piece of evidence for Smith’s case, but also contributes to the larger discussion of the role of bystander videos in promoting police accountability. 

“This is yet another example of a civilian cell phone video making a real difference,” Newman said. “Had it not been for a civilian capturing the assault by Officer Glasby on video and publishing it, there probably would never have been any accountability at all.”

Smith was left with a traumatic brain injury and 'ongoing pain and trauma'

The lawsuit was sparked by Smith’s desire for “accountability,” according to Newman.

After the incident, Smith was unconscious for two minutes and was later diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, brain bleed and nerve damage.

“I didn’t just lose consciousness that night, I lost almost everything,” Smith said in a statement. “The assault left me with a debilitating traumatic brain injury that has taken the joy out of my life. The ongoing pain and trauma still make it hard for me to leave the house, work, or even enjoy spending time with my family. I am filing this case to cause change so no one else ever has to experience this.”

The civil rights lawsuit names Glasby, the downtown bar Hayter’s & Co — where Glasby was working that night as a bouncer — and the City and County of Denver as defendants.

The lawsuit identifies Hayter’s & Co as being liable for Glasby’s behavior because the sports bar was negligent in training and supervising Glasby, according to Smith’s attorneys.

Neither the city nor the restaurant company immediately returned messages seeking comment on the suit.

In April, Glasby pled guilty to misdemeanor assault in the case in a plea deal that dismissed the now-former officer’s other charges. As a result, he lost his state certification to work in law enforcement and resigned from the department last month.

Despite this, Smith says he is seeking to hold the entire Denver Police Department accountable.

A history of excessive force

The lawsuit identified that this incident was not the first time Glasby had used excessive force while on duty. Glasby received two other complaints of using excessive force as a Denver police officer — neither of which resulted in discipline.

“The reason that the lawsuit is so long is because we dedicate many, many pages to other examples of Denver law enforcement engaging in its custom and practice of using excessive force,” Newman told CPR News. “That's important because it shows that this isn't just a one-off.” 

Smith’s attorneys argue that Glasby’s history of excessive force, compounded with the history of Denver police officers consistently and deliberately using excessive force against civilians, without disciplinary consequences, are among some of the biggest factors leading to Smith’s assault. 

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