The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado is suing the Aurora Police Department on behalf of an elderly African-American man who alleged police brutality when officers assaulted and arrested him in response to false claims by his white son-in-law.
As Denver’s Westworld reports, Aurora resident Dwight Crews was defending his stepdaughter from physical assault by her husband. In response, his son-in-law called the police and claimed “Crews had assaulted him and might be in possession of a gun.”
Hours after the incident, Officers Steven Gerdjikian and Ryan Marker arrived at Crews’ house and, as they banged on his door, acknowledged they didn’t have a warrant for his arrest while demanding he come outside.
“You’re going to get a warrant for your arrest if you don’t come down here to resolve this,” one of the officers said in the body camera footage of the November 2015 incident.
Crews opened the door “and was immediately subjected to a physical search.” During the search, Crews’ cat wandered outside, and when he “pointed in the direction of the animal, the officers took him down to the ground, injuring him in the process.”
Though the footage is dark, the audio reveals that during the search, the officers responded to Crews’ movements towards his cat with escalating alarm, eventually taking him to the ground and arresting him.
Crews, the report notes, was taken into police custody for resisting arrest and assault, but “a judge didn’t see enough evidence to support the resisting-arrest accusation, and a jury subsequently found him not guilty of assaulting his son-in-law because he had been acting to defend his stepdaughter.”
In a statement acknowledging the ACLU’s lawsuit on behalf of Crews, APD claimed that “the officers were found to have acted appropriately.”
“We have not had the opportunity to see how the Aurora Police Department arrived at its decisions exonerating the conduct of the police officers either in this case,” Mark Silverstein, the ACLU of Colorado’s legal director, told Westworld. “Aurora refuses to disclose documents related to its investigations of alleged police misconduct even after those investigations are completed. Basically, Aurora says, ‘Trust us. We investigated our officers and they did nothing wrong.'”
As the report notes, APD has been accused on five other occasions of using excessive force against people of color since 2015, including two other cases that led to the ACLU suing the police department.