DENVER — A jury ruled a Denver police officer and the City and County of Denver violated the Fourth Amendment by using excessive force during a 2013 police shooting.
Michael Valdez, the plaintiff, was awarded more than $2.5 million in damages after the verdict in US District Court in Denver on Sept. 23, according to documents obtained Tuesday.
Valdez was shot and wounded by Denver police officer Robert Motyka Jr. at the conclusion of a police chase in the city on January 16, 2013. He was left disabled after the shooting.
The lawsuit filed in 2015 claims Valdez was an unwilling participant in the chase and was unlawfully arrested and charged after the shooting. Charges against Valdez were later dropped.
On the afternoon of the incident, Valdez was at a store when he was approached by an acquaintance and informed of the recent death of a mutual friend’s baby.
That friend, John Montoya, was in a truck across the street from the store where Valdez was at, according to the lawsuit.
Wanting to offer his condolences, Valdez crossed the street to talk to Montoya, and Montoya offered Valdez a ride, which the plaintiff agreed to. But unbeknownst to Valdez, the suit claims, Montoya was wanted by Denver police for an incident earlier in the day.
At some point during the ride, Denver police officers began chasing Montoya, who police said shot at officers during the chase. The chased ended after Montoya crashed into a tree.
When police caught up to the wreckage, the lawsuit claims Valdez came out of the cab of the truck with his hands up, yet was still shot at by officer Motyka Jr. The shooting permanently affected his ability to walk properly, the lawsuit claims.
The Denver City Attorney’s Office contends the shooting was justified and is reviewing the verdict to determine its next legal steps. The office sent Denver7 the following statement regarding the verdict:
“After a jury trial in which the defendant officer could not participate during the first week due to covid restrictions, a jury determined that both the city and an officer are civilly liable for damages to a plaintiff who sustained injuries. The plaintiff has recovered from gunshots fired by the officer after a high-speed pursuit during which the officer was hit by gunfire shot from the car where the plaintiff was a passenger. Officer training is taken seriously in Denver.”