Denver Jail deputy, Thomas Ford, suspended for alleged inappropriate use of force on detainee

Deputy William Lewis also suspended over report

DENVER - A Denver jail deputy has been suspended after being accused of using inappropriate force against an arrested suspect last weekend, Sheriff Gary Wilson said Wednesday.

A second deputy has also been suspended for allegedly writing an inaccurate report about the incident.

Deputy Thomas Ford has been placed on investigative leave with pay, pending the outcome of an administrative investigation, Wilson said.

The incident occurred Sunday evening when a suspect was being booked into the Downtown Detention Center.

After reviewing a surveillance video of the alleged excessive force incident, Wilson said, "I was disturbed by the actions of one of our officers."

Sheriff Wilson has requested an investigation into possible criminal charges against Ford, which will be decided by the Denver District Attorney’s Office. 

Ford is a 6 1/2-year veteran of the Denver Sheriff’s Department.

Deputy William Lewis, a 12-year veteran, has also been placed on investigative leave with pay for allegedly writing an inaccurate report about the inappropriate force incident, sheriff's office said.

The sheriff's department said video evidence and the name of the detainee are not being released at this time to preserve the integrity of the criminal and administrative investigations.

 

--Deputy Ford appears in 2011 jail video where other deputy chokes inmate--

Thomas appears in a 2011 jail surveillance video in which Deputy Edward Keller is accused of using excessive force against then-inmate Jamal Hunter. The video is evidence in Hunter's federal lawsuit against Deputies Keller and Gaynel Rumer and the City and County of Denver. Deputy Thomas is not a defendant in the case.

In the high-profile lawsuit, Hunter alleges widespread brutality and corruption in the Denver jail and witness intimidation by police.

Hunter accuses Deputy Rumer of encouraging a brutal July 2011 attack where inmates in an eight-man cell beat Hunter unconscious and burned his thighs and genitals with cups of scalding water.

Two weeks later, Deputy Keller is accused of choking Hunter, who had just returned to the jail after being hospitalized after the attack by other inmates. Hunter was complaining about a lack of medical treatment in the jail and how Keller was treating him, according to the lawsuit.  

The surveillance video, aired by 7NEWS last month, shows Deputy Keller shoving Hunter, grabbing him by the neck and choking him down onto a cell bunk. Deputy Thomas Ford enters the cell and takes hold of Hunter's right arm, according to a sheriff's department internal investigation report into the incident.

Two other deputies come and help Keller and Thomas pin Hunter on the cell floor while a fifth deputy, Sgt. Anthony Mazzei, twice shocks the inmate with a Taser stun gun. The video doesn't show Hunter resisting or physically threatening any deputies.

An internal affairs investigation found that "Deputy Keller's action during this incident involved a demonstrable serious risk to the inmate." Keller received a 30-day suspension for using excessive force.

 

--A string of embarrassing incidents for Sheriff's Department--

The new excessive force investigation is the latest is a string of controversial and embarrassing incidents for the Denver Sheriff's Department. They include:

  • --Last month, a federal judge overseeing the Jamal Hunter lawsuit asked the U.S. Attorney to investigate "the pattern and practice of the Denver Police Department and the Denver Sheriff's Office" in the inmate abuse case.
  • --In April, the former second-highest ranking member of the Denver Sheriff's Department was indicted for allegedly stealing 1,288 copies of Turbo Tax software from metro Denver Target stores and reselling them on eBay for  $60,000.
  • --In January a former deputy who helped an inmate escape from jail was sentenced to six years in prison.

7NEWS reporter Lindsay Watts asked Sheriff Wilson if he can understand why people may have lost trust in the department.

"I can understand why there is community concern and I also share that concern," Wilson said. "And that's why I wanted to make sure that the community was aware of this event and that we're transparent, not just [about] the event itself, but transparent on the outcome."

Sheriff Wilson in March created four task forces to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the department. A wide array of community stakeholders are participating in the task force reviews and a public report on the recommendations of each task force is scheduled to be released at the end of this summer.

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