Denver Police Accountability

My name is Eric Winfield and I am a victim of police brutality by the hands of three Denver police officers. I have recently settled out of court for a sum of $40,000. The Mayor and City council might remember me better as “liability claim” Resolution 107, Series of 2010.

Two and a half years I have fought tooth and nail for a bit of justice and I believed that they would want me to speak, to hear how this happened and what went wrong. To city council, I was as about as important to them as a stop sign on 46th and Lincoln. I tried to  speak at the City council meeting last week and according to their bylaws, signing up to speak takes place at recess which is about half an hour into the meeting.  Apparently, Jeanne Faatz of district 2 didn’t really feel that the settlement awarded me was “meritorious” by her own words. City council adjourned before recess despite very obvious signs that I had wished to speak. Not counting city council, there were about eight people outside of my family in that cavernous room. I decided on my way to the meeting tonight to write this letter to Denver instead. City council had made up their mind they don’t want to hear me and I am done wasting my time in courtrooms and conference halls.

I was originally charged with a felony, which was shortly thereafter reduced to a misdemeanor and then finally all charges were dropped without an explanation. I have never been in trouble with the law outside a few speeding tickets. I grew up in Colorado Springs and went to high school where my mother was employed as an art teacher. I ran cross country and track and never got in trouble. I graduated Colorado State and became a hardworking, taxpaying Denver citizen.

However, according to police statements I was a drunken belligerent fighter who was willing to fight anyone who came near me. Police claimed I immediately took a fighting stance and swung wildly. I was thrown to the ground and repeatedly punched, kicked and kneed in the groin. I received two black eyes, two lacerations which required ten stitches, cracked and chipped teeth, bruised ribs and permanent nerve damage to my hand from their handcuffs. When I was told I was drunk and belligerent I asked repeatedly for a blood draw so they could test my blood alcohol content (BAC). They took my blood and Denver Health charged me for it, however no BAC was ever recorded. Shouldn’t this be mandatory in a case where alcohol is the suspected cause of my drunken, belligerent state?

No third party was interviewed at the scene and my friends who I was with were forcibly told to leave or they would be arrested too. One police officer yelled “you can give a statement in jail”. One of my friends is a microbiologist and the other has his top secret clearance from the Department of Defense. Not one of us has ever had any trouble with the law. I was not involved in any disturbance, fight or altercation vocal or physical. We were a mere 20 feet from our parked car. I was not intoxicated. I had a few drinks while watching the Rockies in the World Series and admitted as much. However, contrived from that statement, their defense was clear: Eric Winfield was drunk and belligerent. Since I had to provide the burden of proof, without a BAC I could not prove I wasn’t. I am sure it was just accidentally never recorded, not thrown out when the results showed I was not intoxicated.

I ask again, shouldn’t my BAC be mandatory in a case where alcohol is the suspected cause of my drunken, belligerent state?

I have never had any problems with police officers, nor authority of any kind. My good friend and also my cousin are both police officers. I know their job is mostly a thankless one, and a dangerous one at that. That does not give the right to do sloppy work. These officers in question did not do their job correctly. I weigh 155-160 pounds soaking wet and the one officer that claims “could not control me” weighs in at 320. Not to mention the other two officers, one of whom is a undefeated cage fighter and 280 himself. More than 750 pounds of police verses me, 160 pound distance runner me. If they thought I was in the club that they now admit I was not, couldn’t they have asked me and my two friends where I was coming from?

I have waited for two and a half years for some accountability. Two and a half years I have gone to hearings, depositions, conferences and more hearings. Two and a half years and all I have as an explanation is wrong place, wrong time. Wrong place, wrong time to me is a fender bender. It not an encounter with three Denver police officers. Over this two and a half year time period we have sent hundreds of letters to Mayor Hickenlooper, the governor, the citizens oversight board and city council. We received a handful of responses; a grand total of two. No one cared.

As a taxpayer in Denver I am angry. Angry for the amount we pay these three police officers, we cannot even expect three minutes of quality police work. I am angry that instead of accountability and understanding, we the taxpayers have had to pay two and a half years of legal fees and court costs. While I settled for 40k, I am willing to bet the actual expense passed down to the taxpayer is more than triple that figure.

Without proper exposure to these types of stories, nothing will change. Without some sort of discipline passed down, nothing will change. Without public outcry nothing will change. Internal affairs is not working. The fox cannot guard the hen house. There is no clear path to go down when police abuse happens, and like so many I thought that this could never happen to me. I would read something in the newspaper and think “surely they must have done something”.

I was abused at the hand of these three Denver police officers. Yours and my police officers.

I never realized how often and how widespread this problem is. Pay attention and you can see it happens all the time. Next time it could by your son or daughter, brother or sister. It could happen to anyone at anytime without any more of an explanation than I received. I was beaten, charged and thrown in jail. When its your word verses theirs, how are you going to prove your innocence? This could happen to anyone, at any time. This is not matter of merit, more a matter of accountability and responsibility.

I never wanted to be a spokesperson for police brutality, I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I want to thank everyone for their support in this horrible situation. I would not have been able to overcome this without the support from everyone out there. I will be keeping this page up and helping anyone who needs some advice. I believe the most important thing to come out of this would have to be awareness. I could not believe it could happen to someone who was not even involved in a disturbance, much less how far these lying police officers would take it. I will be posting the police reports as well as the depositions online for anyone to look at as soon as I get the word go.  I believe it is important to see just how bad (and I mean BAD) these police officers are at their job and what tactics they took to cover up their horrible excuse for police work.  While they still are on the force, we can at least expose these sad excuses for public servants. While my legal battles are drawing to an end, the fight for police accountability goes on.

Local graphic designer assaulted by Denver police

Local graphic designer assaulted by Denver police
By Christy Ellen

Denver resident Eric Winfield said he doesn’t hate cops.
Not in the slightest.

However, on Oct. 28, 2007, the graphic designer and artist said he
was assaulted by three.

“I wouldn’t react any differently to a cop right now,” said
Winfield, 29. “But those three? They are just bad at their job. I
don’t want to see someone lose their job, but they did a piss poor job
of policing. That’s the bottom line.”

It was early Sunday morning at 1:45 a.m. during the World Series
in Denver when a fight erupted outside of the now-defunct La Rouge
Nightclub, at 14th and Market Streets downtown.

Winfield — quipped with his 24-by-36-inch canvas painting — and
two friends bypassed the incident en route from his sister’s apartment
to the car.

Suddenly, Winfield said he was tackled from behind, slammed on the
ground and pinned down by a 320-pound police officer.

“I remember flashes of white light from getting hit in the face,”
he said. “When I was on the ground and the one police officer was
kneeing me in the crotch I was just thinking ‘Oh my God, this is
really happening? I’m already on the ground, why knee me in the
crotch? How is this actually happening?’”

Three Denver police officers, collectively weighing 780 pounds,
repeatedly hit the 160-pound, six-foot-tall Winfield in the face,
kicked him in the ribs and crotch and kneed him in the back, he said.

“I just want to understand why it took three police officers to
subdue me,” he said. “They thought I was a guy who supposedly was in a
club that I never was, starting a fight that I never did. And I just
want them to explain exactly their actions and what their step-by-step
process was in determining that this other guy, who was walking down
the street — whom they described as a dark-haired, dark-skinned man
– ended up being me.”

Winfield is blond-haired, blue-eyed and white. In the deposition,
he said the police officers described him as Mexican.

The tightly-gripped handcuffs affixed to his now nerve-damaged
hands, the shackling to a Denver Health ambulance gurney for hours
devoid of medical assistance, the day-and-a-half in the felony ward of
the Denver Police Station and the permanent physical damage, including
a chipped tooth from the pavement, landed Winfield with a Second
Degree Assault charge on a Peace Officer and resisting arrest.

“I did nothing wrong,” said Winfield. “It’s very stressful. I
don’t really like to be the center of attention of anything. I have a
couple friends who tell me that I am the best candidate for getting
change and awareness out about this just because I have no criminal
record. I am a quiet person. I don’t get into trouble. I like to go
fishing. That’s my idea of fun.”

The night of the incident, Winfield was downtown at a
bar/restaurant watching the Colorado Rockies play the Boston Red Sox
in the third game of the World Series. After the game, the group spent
a few hours at the downtown apartment of his sister, Liz Viscardi.
Winfield said he had a few drinks over an extended period of time,
but was not intoxicated. He said he pleaded with various Denver Health
workers to take his Blood Alcohol Content, to no avail.

Over the last couple years, Winfield said not only has he spent
thousands of dollars on criminal lawyer fees and medical bills, but he
has missed many days of work to attend depositions.

As an active artist in the community, the permanent nerve damage
to his hands, as diagnosed irreparable by his neurologist, is often
crippling to his artwork.

Viscardi, 24, did not witness the assault, but has spent much time
focusing on justice for her brother’s cause, including creating a
grassroots movement on Facebook to raise awareness.
She said she still cries about the incident.

“It’s over two years later and I still remember every detail and
it still hits home every time,” Viscardi said. “When I first saw him
in jail, I was in total shock. I hadn’t realized how bad it was. His
face was just completely swollen and he had blood everywhere. It’s
still fresh in my mind. There are some images that I had never seen
before that I’ve recently viewed. When I look at those pictures, it
just scares me. There’s one and he looks so lifeless. He’s laying
there on the gurney. It’s freaky to see your own brother laying there,
covered in blood. It’s just surreal.”

Winfield said he was taught respect by his parents at an early age
growing up in Colorado Springs and his family always followed all the
rules.

He was mellow, easygoing, laid back and never involved in any
altercations, said Viscardi.

This incident has banded Winfield’s family together in a battle for justice.
However, he and his family have encountered numerous snags in the
system while blindly sorting through this life-altering event.

Immediately after the assault, Winfield hit the pavement in search
of support and direction.

Numerous letters were sent to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and
Gov. Bill Ritter over the years. Viscardi and Winfield said the Denver
politicians never acknowledged the pleas.

The mayor’s office did not return calls for comment.

Winfield also spent a considerable amount of time at the American
Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) office, which produced minimal results.
Due to restrictions and stipulations, he said he suffered
difficulties in obtaining a civil rights lawyer, as he had to wait 180
days from the initial assault to file an intent to sue. His case
worker at Internal Affairs received a promotion and in order to
advance, she was required to close all open cases, including
Winfield’s. Various citizen support and change groups, such as Cop
Watch, proved more of a complaint forum than results-driven action, he
said.

“I didn’t really have any place to go with my story,”  said
Winfield. “I mean I can see how people would get discouraged and
either settle the suit or stop trying. I’m sure there’s a lot of false
complaints out there but it was just so frustrating trying to get
help. There’s no real path to go down and that’s part of the problem.
You don’t know where to go. ”

On Mar. 25, 2008, the criminal charges were dropped against
Winfield, proving he wasn’t involved in the incident. He said this was
one of the greatest days of his life.

He faces a civil trial May 5 in Federal court in Denver, when
he’ll go up against the three police officers.

Aside from covering the expenses he has incurred, Winfield said he
doesn’t care about the money. He wants justice. He wants change.

“I want awareness,” he said. “For my story there’s 100 others that
have happened. If it was justice just for the sake of me, there’s no
point. There has to be some sort of median that we can actually come
to where this doesn’t happen. The only thing that’s going to make that
happen is we need to stand up. We hear that a million times. But this
is your neighborhood. This is where you live, this is where you pay
taxes. The militarization of our police officers, it needs to come to
an end. We need police officers who are just part of the community
instead of against it at all points in time.

“Bottom line, when police officers take off the badge and put down
the holster, they’re a person. They need to start thinking that even
with the badge and the holster, they’re a person first and a police
officer second.”

Viscardi said she thinks the three officers are disrespecting the
uniform and all it represents.

“They’ve totally changed my perception of Denver police,” said
Viscardi. “ You grow up learning that if something’s wrong, you go to
the police. And now I am more scared of police than I feel safe with
them around.”

Nonetheless, Winfield still has respect for the law.

“I think the easiest thing to do is or the easiest conclusion to
jump to is think that all police officers are bad,” said Winfield.
“But they aren’t. There just needs to be some accountability for this
because it makes them look bad. The more these stories come out, the
good police officers look bad. And the bad police officers will stay
bad.”

Winfield said the most discouraging aspect of attending
depositions and the upcoming trial is the cops’ dishonesty.

“They’re just lying through their teeth,” said Winfield. “I knew
it was going to happen and I was prepared for it, but just seeing them
sit there and I tried to make eye contact, I tried to get them to look
at me and they wouldn’t. Nothing. It’s really just a slap in the
face.”

Winfield said he is confident about the trial in May.

“What I gain out of it, what the city and county of Denver gains
out of it, I don’t know,” said Winfield. “I hope at least some
awareness. At least people can see that no one deserves this. This
kind of thing should not happen to anyone.”

This was the shirt that I was wearing when I was falsely identified as an assailant and beat by 3 Denver police officers.

No witnesses were ever interviewed that night, not a one.   My friends who were with me the whole night were told to leave or they themselves would be arrested too.

Almost two and a half years later and all charges against me dropped, I am still waiting for answers as well as government accountability.

Link to short story about Arrick Crittendon.

“I can’t recall if he was bleeding like that” – Antonio Milow

This was the painting that we were in the process of taking home when 3 police officers took it upon themselves to assault me:  Antonio Milow, Glenn Martin and Thomas Johnston.

I had painted this for my sister during my undergraduate studies at Colorado State University where I received my BFA.  It had been unsigned and I told my sister I would take it back to my studio to sign.  It came out of the ordeal a lot better than me.  You can see only a few scratches on the upper left. On the back side there is a boot imprint and a few more scratches.

My painting made it home that night, I made it to the hospital thanks to the Denver Police Department.

World Series Game 3: October 27th, 2007.

To get the facts out from this case.  Here is my cut and dry.

My recollection of the events leading up to the assault in the early morning hours of Oct. 28, 2007, and the assault itself, in general terms is as follows:

  • 1. Sometime around noon on October 27, 2007, Rachel, my roommate’s now wife, who I have known since about January 2006, came over to the home on Josephine Street in Denver, Colorado.
  • 2. Marc (Roommate), Rachel and I ate, relaxed, watched television and then left for downtown at about 5:30-5:45 PM to meet friends/co-workers to watch the third game of the World Series game at a bar/restaurant.
  • 3. Marc  drove us downtown, and I recall we parked in the area of 14th and 15th Streets and Market by Ruth Chris Steakhouse.  Event parking was upwards of $40, so we decided parking on the street for a $20 ticket would be a bargain.
  • 4. We all went to a local bar/restaurant  to watch the game and meet up with friends/co-workers.
  • 5. During that entire evening while at the Public House I drank about 3-4 beers and had about 3-4 shots of alcohol. We also ate appetizers and I ate a hamburger.  This was the longest 9 inning world series game in history at 4 hours 19 minutes.
  • 6. We all left the bar/restaurant around 11:00 PM to go to my sister’s apartment at 19th and Arapahoe Street in lower downtown Denver to celebrate her boyfriend’s birthday.
  • 7. Marc and Rachel walked over there while I walked a friend home to make sure she was alright.  She had been worried about the crowds on her way home to 26th and Blake.  I made sure she went inside and went on my way to my sister’s apartment.
  • 8. We all arrived at My sister Elizabeth’s apartment  around 11:30 PM.
  • 9. The entire time I was at my sister’s apartment, I had maybe one half (1/2) of a beer.
  • 10. We (Marc, Rachel and I) left my sister’s apartment at about 1:45 AM to go home.
  • 11. Elizabeth’s apartment is about 6-9 blocks from where Marc’s car was parked.
  • 12. As we approached Marc’s car parked on the corner of 15th and Market directly across from where Ruth Chris’s Steakhouse, I was walking with Marc. Rachel was walking a short distance ahead.
  • 13. At that point in time, Rachel was carrying an oil painting I had painted and given to my sister, Elizabeth. When we were at her apartment she wanted me to sign it, so I took it so I could sign it in oil paint. When we left my sister’s apartment I was carrying the painting, but sometime while we were walking toward Marc’s car Rachel took it from me and was carrying it.
  • 14. As we were approaching the car, Marc and I noticed that Rachel went past the car. I went ahead to get Rachel.
  • 15. There were quite a few people in the immediate area. I walked through the crowd in the area in front of a bar called Le Rouge. I was on the sidewalk area, nowhere near the entrance. I was trying to get to the street so I could get Rachel’s attention to get her back to the car. I was working my way through the crowd and was about 5-10 feet from Rachel when I was pushed from behind into a car.
  • 16. I turned around and the next thing I know I was being punched in the face by a large dark skinned man (later determined to be Officer Antonio Milow who is at least 6’ 1” and at least 320 lbs), thrown to the ground and repeatedly kneed in the groin by Officer Milow. I was also beaten around the face and head many times by other Officers later identified as Officers Glenn Martin and Thomas Johnston. Officer Martin apparently is about 5’11’ and 180-190lbs and Officer Johnston is a 6’ 0” and a 280 lb cage fighter. Also while I was face down on the pavement with my hands cuffed behind my back I felt strong pressure like grinding on the back of my head and felt my teeth breaking and chipping.
  • 17. I was not in Le Rouge the evening of October 27, 2007, or in the early morning hours of October 28, 2007. In fact I have never been inside that bar. I was not close to the entrance of Le Rouge that evening except walking down the sidewalk trying to get Rachel.
  • 18. I was not involved in any altercation or struggle with anyone before being pushed into the car and then being attacked by the Denver Police Officers.
  • 19. I never struck/hit or attempted to strike/hit any Denver Police Officer or anyone else on October 27–28, 2007.
  • 20. I never took a fighting stance toward anyone the evening/early morning hours of October 27/28, 2007.
  • 21. I never kneed anyone the evening/early morning hours of October 27th/28th 2007.
  • 22. After I was handcuffed, I kept complaining that the cuffs were too tight. The Officers were very rough with me and lifted me up off the pavement by the cuffs injuring my wrists. Even while being in the back of the police car before being taken in the ambulance, I complained the cuffs were too tight and hurting my wrists.
  • 23. The injuries I suffered as a result of the Police beating were a broken nose, cuts above my eye and on the bridge of my nose, a burst blood vessel in my eye, bruised ribs, cracked and chipped teeth, and permanent, documented nerve damage to both hands.
  • 24. I was charged with Assault on a Police Officer and Resisting Arrest. The City Attorney dropped all charges and the case was dismissed with no explanation, no apology.
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