DENVER -- A Chicago man, who was awarded $150,000 in a police misconduct case, says the Fort Collins officer who illegally entered his house, pepper-sprayed him and arrested him, should be fired.
“Aaron Westby should not be on the streets anymore,” said Enan Heneghan. “He abused his power.”
Heneghan said he and his roommate were in their backyard writing lyrics last July, when a neighbor called police to complain about their loud music.
Officer Aaron Westby responded.
“When I asked, ‘Too loud,’ he said, ‘Way too loud,’” Heneghan said. “I said, ‘We turned it down.’ He said, ‘I’m going to need to see your ID.”
The Chicago teacher said that based on Westby’s demeanor, he wasn’t too eager to step outside his home.
“I said, ‘No, I’m helping a friend move,’” he said. “That’s when Westby cut me off and said, ‘I’m going to need you to step outside.’”
Heneghan told Denver7 that he knew his rights, so he just said, “I’m good man.”
“At that point, the officer decides to reach across the threshold and tried to rip me out of my own home,” he said. “I stepped back into my living room shocked and appalled.”
Cop invites civilian ride-a-long into home
Heneghan said what was even more astounding was that the officer then asked a civilian ride-a-long to come into the house and help him pin Heneghan down.
“Now, we have a civilian who has illegally entered the house at the request of this cop,” the teacher said.
Heneghan said that’s when he made it clear to the cop that he was being recorded.
Here’s a link to that recording posted on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqNZdD6j3kE
Civil rights violation
Civil Rights attorney David Lane called the forced entry a complete and total violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
“The only way police can lawfully enter a house is either with consent or an exigency, which is defined as someone’s life is at risk, or if they have a warrant,” Lane said. “The U.S. Supreme Court has drawn a bright line on the threshold of everyone’s castle and said ‘Police may not enter. Period. The end.’”
Lane described the officer as a “cowboy.”
“This cop believes he’s above the law and can do whatever he wants,” the attorney said. “There was an audio tape recording that’s just shocking to listen to.”
In that recording, you can hear Heneghan clearly tell Westby that he has no right to come into the house.
“This is illegal. You are on camera, currently,” Heneghan told him.
Heneghan told Denver7 that Westby pepper sprayed him in the eyes and ears, twice, brutalized him and put him in handcuffs.
He said he spent 28 hours in jail on trumped up charges that were later dismissed.
He said the officer wasn’t wearing a body camera and that Westby told another officer, who arrived later, to turn his camera off, so he could give his version of what happened.
“If this officer had been wearing a body camera, he would not have dreamed of breaking the law and abusing the power that he had over me at that time,” Heneghan said.
Sex abuse allegation
Heneghan said the cop sexually abused him when he put handcuffs on him.
“He put his crotch in my face to rub in the fact that he had the power and there was nothing I could do about it,” he said. “That’s not the type of person that should be serving and protecting the streets of Fort Collins, or anywhere else in the state.”
'I want the public to be outraged'
Lane said he wants the public to be outraged.
“I want the public to say, ‘What kind of police officers do we have protecting the people of Fort Collins?” he said. “There are plenty of good cops in Fort Collins, but a cop like Westby needs to be kicked off the force. He should be prosecuted for this.”
Lane said the Bill of Rights exists because the framers of the Constitution understood that police can intimidate people into doing things.
“The Bill of Rights is designed to impede law enforcement,” he said. “Every aspect of it. The Fourth Amendment requires a warrant. A warrant is a great big hassle. They don’t want to go through those hoops and without the Bill of Rights, they don’t go through those hoops. And when you have a police officer who ignores the Bill of Rights, it’s because they know they can get away with it nine times out of ten.”
Denver7 reached out to Fort Collins Police for comment about this case.
In an emailed reply, a department spokeswoman said “a civil settlement was reached regarding a July 2016 incident involving Mr. Heneghan. We are unable to provide details about personnel matters. An active internal investigation is ongoing for this case.”
Lane said he gives Fort Collins credit for wanting to reach a settlement before a lawsuit was filed.
He said if his client had to go to court, they would have won much more than $150,000.