Police in Denver, Colorado face a new federal lawsuit in the brutal beating of a suspect. Officers went overboard in apprehending plaintiff Justin Lecheminant, and then tried to cover it up, according to the complaint.
Police pulled him over on January 1, 2019 while he was driving home. This was for riding without his headlights on in a “well-lit residential neighborhood,” the lawsuit stated. Lecheminant gave Corporal Daniel Feklins his driver’s license.
As seen on video, the plaintiff denied drinking. But when Felkins asked him to step out of the vehicle, he drove off at 5 miles per hour according to the complaint. But Lecheminant left behind his driver’s license with the officer.
Police confronted Lecheminant at his home, but the plaintiff (holding a bottle of tequila) tried to walk past Felkins, according to the complaint. Things escalated as the officer tried to grab his arm, and Lecheminant made his way to his gated, fenced-in backyard.
“I’m on private property,” Lecheminant said. “I’m on private property!”
Co-defendant Officer Robert Blanc was on the scene by now, and is accused of escalating the situation by threatening to tase the defendant. That ended up happening twice.
“Defendant Blanc lied in his report indicating that ‘The suspect attempted to standup and Officer Blanc tazed him a second time, which the suspect then dropped to the ground,'” plaintiffs said.
Blanc kicked the helpless Lecheminant repeatedly in the face, even taking a step back three times to wind up for a forceful kick, according to the complaint. From there, he allegedly got on top of the plaintiff, and hit him with repeatedly with closed fists.
This attack resulted in multiple injuries: a broken nose, punctured eardrum, multiple broken ribs, and a serious concussion, the plaintiff team said.
“That’s what you get for eluding!” Blanc allegedly said.
Felkin is sued for allegedly failing to intervene in the beating. Two other named co-defendants–Sergeant Troy Sandoval and Sgt. Brian Pacelko–allegedly failed to properly investigate the matter, and interviewed the battered Lecheminant even though he involved his right to an attorney. They are accused of covering up the misconduct.
“Defendants Pacelko and Sandoval intentionally did not conduct oral interviews of either Defendant Blanc or Defendant Felkins on body worn camera video, despite having the opportunity to do so on the scene,” the lawsuit said. “Defendants Sandoval and Pacelko did this intentionally to ensure that Defendants Felkins and Blanc’ reports were consistent with one another, to ensure that there were no other eyewitnesses prior to Defendants Felkins and Blanc writing their reports and giving a statement,and to ensure that Defendants Felkins and Blanc had an opportunity to calm down after the incident and not appear on camera to be aggressive or erratic.”
The beating was so bad that when the plaintiff’s son later saw him, the son had a panic attack, and a therapist was called in to help, according to the complaint.
The lawyer said Lecheminant shouldn’t have driven off, but that doesn’t justify the injuries.
“This is not what you look like when trained officers place you into custody in your own backyard,” attorney Chris Decker told WWLP while holding up a photo of his badly injured client. “That’s not what this is supposed to look like.”
According to the lawsuit, prosecutors declined not to go after Lecheminant for four counts of felony assault on a peace officer, but the damage was done: He’d lost his job. The plaintiff ended up pleaded guilty to one count each of vehicular eluding and obstruction in connection to driving off from Felkin.
Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson declined to comment on the pending litigation when contacted by KDVR.
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