Video: Denver police officer suspended 30 days for shoving down man standing with hands in pockets

Deputy safety director: Victim posed no threat

DENVER - A Denver police officer has been suspended for 30 days without pay for shoving a LoDo bar patron backward down some stairs, according to a disciplinary order.

Deputy Director of Safety Jess Vigil found that Officer Choice Johnson, an 11-year veteran, violated department rules by using inappropriate force.

The report indicated that Johnson falsely portrayed the bar patron as taking a fighting stance toward the officer, when a surveillance video showed the man was standing with his hands in his pockets as the 260-pound officer violently shoved him backward down some stairs. (The video can be viewed above. The officer shoves that man at 4:23 into the video.)

The incident happened on the night of July 26, 2014 at the 1UP Bar, located at 1925 Blake St. Johnson was working off-duty in uniform providing security at the bar.

That night, 29-year-old Brandon Schreiber was celebrating his brother's bachelor party with other relatives at the bar.

At about 11:30 p.m., the groom-to-be was sleeping at the bar after drinking too much, the disciplinary order states. He had a glass of water next to him.

Two security guards decided to escort the brother out of the bar and, as one bouncer told him to finish his water quickly as they neared the exit, the brother "verbally challenged him," the order stated.

Officer Johnson intervened and took custody of the brother. He took the man outside, handcuffed him and called for a vehicle to transport him to a detox center.

Meanwhile, Schreiber who was paying the bar tab, learned from a cousin that his brother had been taken into custody by the officer.

He went outside and tried to persuade Johnson to release his brother. Schreiber, who later filed a complaint against the officer, told internal affairs investigators "he felt that he had to stand up for this brother and wasn't going to let his brother, who never gets in trouble, go to detox on the night of his bachelor party," according to the report.

Schreiber said Johnson was "very short" and "rude" with him and would not discuss the matter. Schreiber acknowledged that he, too, had several drinks that night, the report states.

Officer Johnson told investigators that Schreiber repeatedly cursed him. Johnson said Schreiber told his handcuffed brother, "Let's just run" away from the officer.

Johnson said Schreiber was intoxicated, but he gave him an opportunity to leave with his cousin and allow his brother to be transported to detox. The officer said Schreiber kept escalating the confrontation, and Johnson decided he, too, needed to be handcuffed and taken to detox.

Johnson claimed that Schreiber resisted being handcuffed and, took a fighting posture, "pushed his chest out in a defensive manner" and told him "don't put your hands on me," according to the report.

Johnson said that, sensing "this is going to be a fight," he decided to thrust his hands at Schreiber's chest, knock him off balance and then handcuff him, the report stated.

But the report states that a city surveillance-camera video "does not support Officer Johnson’s claim that the complainant 'pushed his chest out in a defensive manner.'"

Instead, it shows Johnson aggressively rushing at Schreiber, who is "simply standing there with his hands in his pockets," and shoving him in the chest, knocking the man backward down some concrete steps.

"He makes no threatening gestures or movements toward Officer Johnson … The video does not support Officer Johnson’s claim that (Schreiber) ‘pushed his chest out in a defensive manner,'" the disciplinary order states.

Johnson admitted to investigators that "[I] thrust him too hard so he went to the ground…I didn't anticipate the thrust, him going flying," the report stated.

Johnson arrested Schreiber, who was charged with resisting police and interfering with a police officer. But the charges were later dropped.

Vigil, the deputy director of safety, wrote that "Officer Johnson did not consider stepping away from (Schreiber) to ameliorate the situation he had created." The officer could have also called for police backup or asked a bouncer for help, the report states.

Schreiber declined to talk with 7NEWS Tuesday on the advice of his attorney.

During his DPD career, Johnson has earned 16 commendations and has six prior disciplinary actions, the letter said. He will serve the 30-day suspension starting on Sunday.

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