DA will not charge Denver jail deputy, Thomas Ford, for punching inmate in face

Deputy said he was defending himself

DENVER - Denver Sheriff's Deputy Thomas Ford will not face criminal charges after being accused of using inappropriate force while booking a suspect into the Downtown Detention Center, District Attorney Mitch Morrissey has concluded.

Ford was placed on investigative leave with pay over the incident and a second deputy was also suspended for allegedly writing an inaccurate report about the incident.

"Although the use of force by Deputy Sheriff Thomas Ford striking inmate Kyle Askins in the face was recorded on video on July 13, 2014, there are important facts that do not appear on the video which must be evaluated in order to make a fully informed decision regarding filing criminal charges," Morrissey wrote in a letter to acting Sheriff Elias Diggins.

His letter goes on to say that Askins was making "vile comments" that included expletives, racial slurs and taunts. It also references a registered nurse who reported the inmate was "loud, belligerent and drunk."

It also quotes Ford's description of the strike:

"I didn't tell him to get up. I didn't give him an order. He popped up off the bench in an aggressive manner. His body was tense, and his face, and then, based off his previous threats about what he was going to do to me, I felt threatened and I defended myself, and I defended myself with a -- with a strike to the face… a strike that we are taught in the Academy to defend ourselves against threats."

Morrissey determined that the video and witnesses largely corroborate Ford's description of events.

"I believe a jury would find that Deputy Ford's use of force was legally justified," the DA wrote.

Thomas also appeared in a 2011 jail surveillance video in which another deputy appears to use excessive force against then-inmate Jamal Hunter. That video was key evidence in a federal lawsuit that the City of Denver agreed to settle for $3.25 million.

Thomas was not a defendant in the Hunter case, which led to the ousting of the former sheriff and a series of ongoing efforts to reform the department.

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