Unprovoked: Courtroom video shows Denver sheriff’s deputy attacking shackled inmate

Safety officials waited a year to discipline son of former Sheriffs Department chief

Unprovoked: Courtroom video shows Denver sheriff’s deputy attacking shackled inmate

 
DENVER — Denver’s safety department waited a year to discipline a sheriff’s deputy for grabbing a man who was appearing before a judge in a Denver County courtroom and slamming him into a wall.

The deputy, Brady Lovingier, is the son of Bill Lovingier, who headed the sheriff’s department from 2006 to 2010. The safety department disciplinary report on the incident found “no legitimate reason” for Lovingier to attack inmate Anthony Waller in Judge Doris Burd’s courtroom.

The judge had a full view of the September 11, 2012, assault and filed an excessive force grievance against Lovingier. But that didn’t speed up the investigation by a department that long has been criticized for downplaying – and, in some cases, ignoring – abuse by its officers.

A formal response didn’t come until late September 2013, when the city suspended Lovingier for 30 days for the kind of assault that would see a civilian arrested, convicted and incarcerated for in Denver.

“If he had killed me, would he have gotten 30 days?” Waller said in a statement to The Independent. “I was defenseless. I was addressing the judge, exercising my constitutional rights, and this is what I get? A savage beating?”

Waller was taken into custody on suspicion of assaulting a woman in an east Colfax motel.

Video and audiotapes obtained by The Independent show that deputies had shackled Waller in handcuffs, leg irons, a belly chain and black box — the highest level of restraint short of locking someone into a wheelchair — before escorting him into the courtroom.

During the court proceeding, known as a “first advisement,” Judge Burd explained why Waller was being held, advised him of his rights and outlined a schedule for legal procedures. Waller stood quiet at the podium while the judge spoke for about five minutes. There were no raised voices in the nearly empty courtroom. The four deputies in the room seemed relaxed as Waller stood listening to the judge. One even checked his cell phone.

After Judge Burd finished her advisement, Waller spoke. “Ah, yes, ma’am, I’d like to object first,” he told her. “If I’m under investigation, I thought the investigation came first and then the arrest came.”

Just as the judge started answering Waller’s objection — explaining that the city had the authority to hold Waller for three days before arresting him — Lovingier suddenly took hold of Waller from behind by the belly chain. Waller turned his head to look at Lovingier, who then yanked Waller violently by the chain, spun him around and slammed him into a large glass window. Waller collapsed onto the ground.

“Get on your feet,” Lovingier yelled. “Don’t turn on me. Get on your feet. Get on your feet.”

Waller, his head injured, groaned, “Oh, man, oh.”

“Get on your feet,” Lovingier repeated.

Deputies dragged Waller from the courtroom.

After some silence, Judge Burd finally spoke. “Oh, lah, lah,” she said.

Then, at least for the time captured on tape, she and her clerk went on with their work as if nothing had happened. Burd later filed the grievance against Lovingier in a move that’s rare for a judge.

Burd used the term “heavy duty” when later asked by internal affairs investigators to describe the attack. Her clerk described it as “a bit excessive.”

Judge Burd did not return a phone call asking for reaction to the fact that it took more than a year for safety officials to respond to her grievance. The probe resulted in a finding of “misconduct” — specifically “neglect of duty,” “carelessness in performance of duties and responsibilities” and “failure to observe the written departmental or agency regulations.” Lovingier plans on February 20 to appeal his 30-day suspension to the city’s Career Service Authority.

Waller sees the month-long suspension as a mere slap on the wrist. He calls Lovingier’s appeal of the disciplinary action a ”degradation to the sheriff’s department.”

“Every deputy should be offended due to the lack of professionalism exhibited by Deputy Lovingier. Anyone who looks at that tape can see what happened.”

Prior to his attack, Waller had served 19 years in prison for a sexual assault conviction about which he maintains his innocence. Seventeen months after Lovingier assaulted him, he is still in Denver jail awaiting trial on felony charges of kidnapping and assault related to the motel beating. Despite Waller’s rap sheet, safety department brass concluded in the Lovingier discipline report that “the record indicates… inmate Waller posed no threat to [Lovingier] or anyone else,”

City officials refused comment on the case, citing a concern for “potentially influenc(ing) the outcome” of Lovingier’s disciplinary appeal.

The deputy had worked for more than 11 years in the department his father used to run.

Documents obtained by The Independent detail Lovingier twisting the facts of the incident.

In a statement to police the day of the attack, this was his version of events:

“As we hit the glass Waller dropped his weight and he went to the floor. Since I already had his belly chain I eased him to the floor.”

His long series of statements to internal affairs investigators were dismissed as “unreasonable” and not factual. (Find examples in the excerpts posted here.)

In another interview, after watching a video of the assault, Lovingier asserted that “it appeared Mr. Waller tripped up on his leg irons when I turned him to regain control and leave the courtroom… It is also apparent to me that the trip accelerated our momentum toward the glass, which is why we got there so fast and appeared harder than I would have anticipated.”

Denver’s safety department has had seven managers in four years. It has faced heavy criticism after a spate of jail incidents, including the 2010 death of Marvin Booker after several sheriff’s deputies forcefully restrained him. The city has incarcerated deaf inmates without offering sign language interpreters. And it has a record of jailing innocent people in cases of mistaken identity.

In December, the official tasked with watchdogging Denver’s safety agencies released a 78-page study showing the sheriff’s department ignores incidents of staff misconduct. The report by Independent Safety Monitor Nicholas Mitchell found that the city:

- Failed to investigate serious misconduct, including “inappropriate force, non-consensual sexual touching and biased behavior by deputies.”

- Ignored a series of grievances against a small group of rogue deputies at the county jail. Four deputies in a force of more than 700 officers were the subjects of 16 percent of all inmate complaints.

- And hindered inmates’ ability to lodge grievances. This was especially a problem for Latino inmates for whom there were no grievance forms in Spanish.

Mitchell wouldn’t comment on the Lovingier case, nor on the year it took safety officials to investigate it.

Safety department spokeswoman Daelene Mix wrote The Independent that, “since the Lovingier case, the Denver Sheriff’s Department has reformed its disciplinary process to reduce major delays.

“Specifically, the Internal Affairs Bureau added two investigators to its staff to ensure investigations are conducted in a timely and efficient manner.”

Mix also noted that the department has adopted some of Mitchell’s recommendations regarding its grievance procedures.

Ken Padilla, Waller’s civil attorney, said the year-long lag time to investigate the attack and Lovingier’s suspension of only 30 days show “gross deep-seated endemic issues in the Denver Sheriff’s Department and the Denver Manager of Safety Office that the City and County of Denver has failed to address or correct.” Padilla is particularly concerned about a part of the audiotape when he said Lovingier, who is white, refers to Waller as “boy.”

“If a deputy sheriff thinks he can get away with viciously attacking a middle-aged Black man and calling him ‘a boy’ appearing in court, you can only imagine what happens to men and women in custody in the confines of the Denver city and county jails,” Padilla said.

Former Denver Safety Manger Fidel Butch Montoya said the video “is a shocking demonstration of a sheriff’s deputy taking advantage of his authority.” As someone who has meted out discipline in several misconduct cases, Montoya said a year is “an excessive time to make a determination of the video and audio elements of the case.”

Carole Oyler, a longtime activist who watchdogs police issues in Denver, points out that most civilians who attack someone in the way Lovingier hauled off on Waller “would not just have been suspended from their jobs, but also fired and (had) criminal charges filed.”

“There’s something way, way wrong with Denver’s disciplinary system,” she said. “Apparently members of the safety department are exempt from the laws that apply to the rest of us.”

Lovingier Report

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About the Author

Susan Greene

A recovering newspaper journalist and Pulitzer finalist. Her criminal justice reporting includes “Trashing the Truth,” with Miles Moffeit, and “The Gray Box.”
susan@coloradoindependent.com | 720-295-8006 | @greeneindenver

25 Comments

  1. John Stephens on said:

    The Denver Police Department remains the prevalent reason why I work hard to conduct my business elsewhere. Denver businesses and government should realize this subtle but huge economic damage to the city’s economy. My run-in with the DPD was a supervisor ordering my human-powered vehicle off of Alameda at the Platte River as I was in a turn pocket for Jason Street. This was illegal and ignorant. I have no doubt that many of the police have a good motive in mind, but so did The Crusaders.

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  7. Will Morrison on said:

    It’s pretty clear from watching this video that the cop is a nasty piece of work. Notice what he does JUST before he slams the man to the glass, he points to the other door, drawing his attention away from where he was going to be slammed. SUCKER PUNCH with a wall. There was no reason for this, other than this cop has real issues.

    30 days suspension seems awfully minor for something that would have gotten any of the rest of US 6 months in the slammer. Why is it that cops can assault us whenever they want, lie whenever they want, fabricate whole stories out of nowhere, and they get off with a month vacation, where the rest of us would be fired, fined, jailed and have our futures ruined for the same thing?

    And they actually wonder why we don’t respect them. Maybe it’s because they don’t respect us.

  8. Pingback: Denver Sheriff's Deputy Attacks Shackled Inmate In Courtroom (VIDEO) | Greater Denver CO

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  13. Pingback: Caught on Camera: Denver sheriff's deputy attacking shackled inmate

  14. Dave Barnes on said:

    1. The deputy (who is NOT a cop) needs to be fired.
    2. The do-nothing judge needs to be censured.
    3. The other deputies need to be suspended for at least a month without pay.

  15. Grant on said:

    Very sad situation, can’t say it’s too much better here in Canada. Cops and power are two elements that require close attention. This story is a gross injustice, an idiot can see the inhumanity. Shame on this Denver Sheriffs Deputy and the department!

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  17. Pingback: Denver Sheriff’s Deputy Inexplicably Slammed Handcuffed and Chained Inmate into a Wall | breakingbrown.com

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  20. mike on said:

    With this as video evidence the victim should sue the deputy for every damn penny he has.
    absolutely shocking video and as for the Judge, wtf! A public servant who did absolutely nothing, She should be stripped from her role

  21. Pingback: Don’t turn on me | BattleBlue1

  22. Amicus Curia on said:

    This is shockingly common in jails/prisons where there are no witnesses. Prisons are all about terrorizing the general population with the abuses of the inmates…that, and the $.
    - amicuscuria.com/wordpress -

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