DENVER -- A Denver resident has filed suit against The Medical Center of Aurora, alleging the hospital denied the victim access to a patient, and that a guard physically assaulted him.
The complaint alleges both the attack and denial of access were motivated by gender identity discrimination.
Jaxzion Deak, 37, a gender activist who identifies as non-binary -- someone who doesn't identify strictly as male or female -- told Denver7 that he was trying to visit a patient in the Behavioral Health area of the hospital on December 29, 2016.
It was a visit that had been pre-scheduled via the hospital's phone system.
"When I went to the desk, I found there wasn't that much privacy to discuss that person's name," Deak said. "I used the patient's 'preferred' name and hospital ID number, but the guard told me I needed the patient's 'legal' name."
When the victim asked how they could obtain the patient's "legal" name, things went downhill.
Deak said the guard, Yamada Garner, began yelling, so the victim began recording the conversation on a cell phone.
In the recording, the victim asks how they could obtain the patient's legal name.
"Stop and let me speak," Garner yelled, "I'll tell you what I need to say."
When Garner learned that Deak was recording him, he said, "Let's go, let's go," and began to escort Deak from the premises.
"He just pushed me," Deak is heard saying into the camera.
Garner replies saying, "I have a right to get you off the premises."
Deak told Denver7 that Garner knocked the cell phone out of his hand, placing the victim in a chokehold, and then tackling Deak to the ground.
"I literally thought this guy could snap my neck," Deak said. "I could be dead. This recording could be deleted from my phone and no one will know."
Deak said hospital management was not contacted because Deak had been told they were being "banned" from the hospital.
According to the lawsuit, Garner told police that Deak elbowed and assaulted him.
"It's a flat out lie," Deak said. "One thing I've learned from the Black Lives Matter campaign is to keep the footage rolling, because if it's not, people will lie about what happened, and they will try to turn it right back on you."
In an emailed statement to Denver7, HSS Security said it conducted an internal review and terminated Garner's employment due to his actions while escorting Deak from the premises.
The Sr. Vice President of Healthcare Security said Garner attempts to get the patient's "legal" name was not a discriminatory situation, "but rather adherence to federal HIPAA Privacy Rules which are in place for patient protection."
The Medical Center of Aurora issued the following statement in reply to a request for comment.
"While we can't comment on any details of this specific matter, we take it very seriously. We are dedicated to providing exceptional care and service to our patients, as well as to their families and visitors, and in line with our values, we are committed to treating all our patients and visitors with respect, compassion and dignity."
Denver7 reached out Garner via phone and email, but as of 8:04 p.m., we have not heard back from him.
While the hospital declined further comment, Deak's attorney told Denver7 that the hospital is apparently tweaking its policy.
"I think that it may have in response to the filing of this charge, which of course would be a positive thing, and that's part of what Mr. Deak was setting out to accomplish," said Sarah Parady.
Parady told Denver7 that transgender and non-conforming people experience a lot of violence throughout their lives.
"Anyone who interacts with the public should just have an understanding that some of the people might be gender non-conforming, or might be transgender. Their pronouns might not match what you would think to be their physical appearance," she said. "They might have a preferred name that they want you to use. That's just something that, if you're in that kind of position that interfaces with the public, you should know about, and be prepared to handle, as a matter of equity and common courtesy to part of your customer base."
Parady said the confrontation with the guard left a lasting impact on her client.
"Mr. Deak has told me that he has a physical reaction now when he sees someone in uniform. He's afraid, which of course is not what we want."
Deak is seeking damages, attorney's fees and costs, in an amount to be determined at trial.