Mayor Hancock praises ruling upholding firing of two police officers in Denver Diner beating case

Surveillance video captured cops' excessive force

DENVER - Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is praising a judge's ruling upholding the firings of two police officers who beat and pepper-sprayed a group of women outside the Denver Diner more than four years ago.

"This ruling supports our hard work to make our police department more accountable to the people it serves," Hancock said Friday. "I am proud of our city attorneys and those in the Manager of Safety's Office who persisted in their pursuit of justice in this case."

The decision by Denver District Court Judge Elizabeth Starr, announced Thursday, was the latest development in the long-running disciplinary cases against Ricky Nixon and Kevin Devine, who were initially fired after the July 2009 altercation with the women outside the diner.

The officers' actions were captured on surveillance camera video, fueling public outrage about police misconduct in Denver.

 

City pays $360,000 settlement in Denver Diner case

The judge's order came just four days after the Denver city council approved a $360,000 settlement in a federal lawsuit filed by four women in the Denver Diner case.

The women's lawsuit claims the officers punched, shoved, dragged, pepper-sprayed and threw the women to the ground outside the diner. The women allege constitutional violations by the officers, including using excessive force, making false arrests, hiding or making up evidence and violating civil rights.

Last year, the Civil Service Commission reinstated Nixon and Devine. The city appealed the officers' reinstatement, and Judge Starr agreed that the commission erred in keeping the officers on the job.

"The city can now hand down the proper termination of Officers Nixon and Devine for what occurred at the Denver Diner in 2009, bringing a long-overdue resolution to this case," City Attorney Doug Friednash said. "It has been the city’s position that the video provided irrefutable proof not only of unnecessary uses of force by both officers, but also of their dishonesty in their reports and statements. Our team fought hard in this case to reinforce the fact that these actions will not be tolerated here in Denver."

"The Denver District Court found that a comparison of statements and reports from Officers Ricky Nixon and Kevin Devine with the objective video evidence clearly proves that they were deceptive in their reporting of the events," the mayor's office said in a statement.

"The Denver District Court further concluded that the Civil Service Commission erred in disregarding those deceptive acts because the scene was 'chaotic,' which is not supported by the objective video evidence. Manager of Safety Alex Martinez signed termination orders for Officers Nixon and Devine today," the statement concluded.

The Colorado Fraternal Order of Police said this via Twitter on Friday: "You don't like us? We don't care. We are the police. We have a job to do. It isn't always pretty. That is the way it is."

It's unclear if the organization was referring to the re-firing of the two Denver officers.

 

Video captures chaotic scene outside diner

The chaotic scene outside the diner was caught by one of the city's surveillance cameras, known as HALO cameras.

Nixon was working off duty in his police uniform as security for the diner that night, according to a police report. Devine was on duty and arrived to assist Nixon with the disturbance involving several women who were dressed in skirts and high heels.

The video showed an officer pulling a woman by her arm from the diner entrance onto the sidewalk.

As another woman in a long, flowing dress tried to intervene, the video showed the officer use his police baton to shove her to the ground with such force her feet flew up in the air.

That woman, Kelly Boren, of Lone Tree, told 7NEWS she and some friends had just arrived at the diner in a pedicab and were not involved in whatever disturbance that drew police.

 

Woman: 'Officers mistreated us completely'

Boren said they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. "The officers mistreated us completely," Boren said. She said a female friend was hospitalized by injuries she received that night.

Boren was jailed for disobeying a lawful police order, according to a police summons issued by Nixon. Nixon wrote in the summons that Boren kept getting in Devine's way and the officer gave her several orders to leave.

After the fight ended, Nixon wrote that Boren came up and yelled at him. Nixon wrote that he warned Boren: "You need to leave. I am giving you a lawful order to leave. If you don't, you will be jailed."

Nixon wrote that Boren replied: "Well, then jail me." So, he arrested her.

Boren, however, said the officer "never said, 'Move out of the way.'"

The video also showed Devine pushing the baton with both hands at a petite woman in an orange miniskirt.

The woman holds up her hands as if to gesture for him to stop. Devine grabs her arm and pulls the woman to her knees.

 

Officers restrain, pepper-spray 5-foot-1 woman

The video showed Nixon step up and pepper spray the kneeling woman in the face as Devine holds her left arm behind her. Then Nixon aims the pepper spray at someone in the diner doorway.

A police report identified the woman in the miniskirt as 27-year-old Ana Perez, who the report described as 5-foot-1 inch tall and 113 pounds. She was cited for failure to obey a lawful order.

In Perez's summons, an officer wrote that the woman "grabbed (Devine's) police baton and attempted to disarm him. Fearing for the safety of Officer Devine, Officer Nixon used his pepper spray on the (suspect) to gain control of the (suspect) and situation."

 

Nixon involved in 2nd brutality lawsuit; $795,000 settlement

The diner clash was not the first time Nixon was accused of police brutality.

Six months earlier, Nixon and two other officers were accused of beating an African American college student until he was unconscious following a traffic stop.

The federal lawsuit filed by the student, Alexander Landau, accused Nixon and the other officers of stopping the then-19-year-old Landau after midnight on Jan. 15, 2009, for making an illegal turn, then calling him the N-word and beating his face and head with their fists, a radio and a flashlight until he was unconscious.

The lawsuit contained photographs of Landau just after the incident with a blood-covered face and a swollen eye, wearing a neck brace. Landau suffered brain injuries.

The City Council paid Landau a $795,000 lawsuit settlement in 2011.