YouTube Video Prompts Internal Investigation

Fort Collins Police Chief: Don't Jump To Conclusions

A YouTube video showing a Fort Collins police officer shoving a man has prompted the police department to open an internal affairs investigation.

“We are taking a look at the video and we are trying to contact witnesses to the event,” said Fort Collins Police Chief John Hutto.

Hutto said Officers Kyle Bendzsa and Dan Calahan made contact with three men around 1:45 a.m. Sunday, in the Old Town District, when the operator of a pedi-cab taxi told them the three men damaged one of his bikes.

The men, Matthew R. Hefferon, Joshua M. Cullip and Jarvis L. Gullatt, were apparently riding in one of the pedi-cabs.

“What happened is we asked the guy for a ride,” Cullip said. “As we were loading up on his bike, it ended up tipping back because we had too much weight on it. It ended up tipping back and breaking the brackets on his reflector.”

Hutto said the officers were trying to resolve the dispute when it escalated.

“It’s my understanding that (the men) were asked repeatedly to step back,” the chief said. “But again, that’s part of the investigation that I don’t have a complete picture of yet.”

Hefferon declined to comment about the incident on the advice of his attorney, but Cullip told 7NEWS that he and Gullatt obeyed the officer’s command to step back.

In the video, Hefferon is still near one of the officers when the officer reaches out, shoves him and yells, “Step back.”

The second officer then approaches and tells Hefferon he’s under arrest.

Then Hefferon moves back and says, “For what?” He then tries to take a few more steps away.

Officers grabbed him and put him in handcuffs.

Cullip said Hefferon’s hand was bruised during the incident.

video posted over the weekend.

When asked why he started recording, Cullip said, “I really don’t know why. I think I started recording after the officer gave Jarvis and me our IDs back and told us to step back.”

Cullip added, “Ever since (the officers) got there they were just like real uppity, you know?”

When asked about Hefferon’s arrest, Gullatt said, “You obviously could tell in the video he got pushed and shoved back, and then the officer came and roughed him up and put him in handcuffs. He got abused in the whole situation.”

The YouTube posting includes a myriad of comments negative toward the police department.

During a mid-afternoon news conference, the chief was asked if some people might look at the video and think that the officer shoved the man without provocation.

“You would think so by the comments being posted on YouTube,” he said. “Absolutely. I think anytime you see an event like this and see only a small percent of it, it obviously raises questions.”

Hutto told 7NEWS, “It’s important to put things in the proper context and not jump to conclusions.”

He noted that the video shows one minute and 16 seconds of a 17-to 20-minute encounter.

He said investigators would like to get the raw video and would like to talk to other witnesses.

“We’ve identified some of those third party witnesses,” he said.

Hutto said the investigation will determine whether the officers violated department policy.

“The outcome of which will be appropriate discipline, if any discipline is necessary,” he said. “And we’ll make sure the incident is investigated completely.”

All three men were issued citations. Hefferon was cited for criminal mischief and obstructing a police officer. Cullip was cited for interference and Gullatt was cited for Obstructing a police officer.

“I don’t know what we did to deserve those tickets,” Gullatt said.

Cullip believes it had to do with the video recording.

“The taller white male with blond hair pointed at me and told me to stop recording while he’s arrested Matt. It’s kind of like I thought they were just a little angry at me so they wanted to give me something,” Cullip said.

Both men said they too are considering hiring an attorney.

The chief said that officers who work in the Old Town District on weekends make hundreds of contacts each evening.

“The force that they use, the expectation is that it’s… a measured direct response to the issue they’re dealing with,” he said.

The chief said they’ll check to see if there was any security video of the incident and he said they’d like anyone else who may have witnessed the event to contact police.

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