A witness says that Denver police officers abused a pregnant woman and her boyfriend, and then tried to cover it up by deleting the video from his tablet.
Levi Frasier told KDVR that he was recording as two uniformed officers tried to arrest David Flores, who had been identified by narcotics officers for possessing heroin. An arrest report said that a scuffle had started because Flores had stuffed a white sock in his mouth, which the officers believed was filled with drugs.
KDVR investigative reporter Chris Halsne noted that a close examination of the video showed Flores’ head repeatedly “bouncing off the pavement as a result of the force” of being punched by the officers. In photos that were later taken of Flores in an ambulance, his head could be seen soaked with blood from his injuries.
“I used to cage fight and I’ve never seen punches harder than that,” Frasier explained.
But it was the way that officers treated Flores’ girlfriend, Mayra Lazos-Guerrero, that really shocked Frasier.
As Flores’ was being punched in the head, Lazos-Guerrero, who is 7 months pregnant, can be seen walking up to the scene.
“She was just concerned for him, you could clearly hear that,” Frasier recalled.
An officer grabbed her left leg, and then swept her right leg out from under her, causing her to crash into the pavement face and belly first.
At that point, an officer turned and looked at Frasier. “Camera!” he shouted.
Frasier said that the one of the officers seized his tablet against his wishes, and demanded to know which program he used to record the video.
“The first officer that comes up to ask me about my witness statement, brings me to the police car, and says, ‘We can do this the easy way or we can do this the hard way,'” Frasier noted. “It was taken as you can either cooperate and give us what you want or we’re going to incarcerate you.”
When the tablet was returned, the video had been deleted, he said.
But Frasier said that officers did not realized that his video had already been automatically uploaded to cloud servers, and he was able to retrieve it when he returned home.
The police report asserted that officers punched Flores in the face in an effort to keep him from swallowing evidence, and to save him from choking. Officers also said that they believed that the arm of an undercover narcotics officer might have been pinned underneath Flores. They claimed that it was necessary to trip the pregnant woman because she might kick the officer.
Police conduct expert Mark Carlson told KDVR that officers had clearly used too much force on Flores, but they had been justified in taking down Lazos-Guerrero.
Officials with the Denver Police Department repeatedly declined to view the videotape, but Lt. Matt Murray eventually did say that officers “would love to talk with” Frasier.
“If he has further information, we want that information,” Murray remarked to KDVR. “And if there is misconduct, we will happily investigate that, and report that to the community. This is about transparency, not a cover-up like you were intimating in your teaser.”
Watch the video below from KDVR, broadcast Nov. 25, 2014.