Arvada man’s lawsuit claims excessive force

Police say force was justified during arrest

Casey Van Divier
cvandivier@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 2/5/20

A 24-year-old Arvada man has filed a lawsuit against the city of Arvada and three of its police officers, claiming police used excessive force against him when he was arrested in a domestic assault …

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Arvada man’s lawsuit claims excessive force

Police say force was justified during arrest

Posted

A 24-year-old Arvada man has filed a lawsuit against the city of Arvada and three of its police officers, claiming police used excessive force against him when he was arrested in a domestic assault investigation, Feb. 2018.

The Jan. 27 lawsuit claims that police falsified information in their reports to justify the force used by officers Brandon Valdez, Scott Thomas and Ryan Clark.

Arvada Police issued a statement saying the man, Travis Cook, “resisted officers when they attempted to place him under arrest, so officers were required to use force to protect the alleged victim and to take Mr. Cook into custody.”

According to the police report from Cook’s 2018 arrest, officers were dispatched to the home of Cook’s then-girlfriend and her parents. Her mother contacted police during a loud argument between Cook and his girlfriend, who were in the basement of the house, the report said.

Cook’s girlfriend is said to have told officers she’d been arguing with Cook and had kicked him off of their bed. She alleged that Cook retaliated by tackling her to the ground and choking her. The young woman told police she hit Cook in the face and ran to the upper level of the house, according to the report.

Police noted “visible abrasion marks on her neck” and that her neck “appeared to be bruising,” the report said.

Police then spoke to Cook, who was still in the house. Cook claimed that his girlfriend had kicked him but “there was no additional physical contact,” the report said.

The police report and lawsuit diverge on the ensuing events.

According to the report, officers told Cook to stand from the chair he was in because he was under arrest for second-degree assault. Officers Valdez, Clark and Thomas tried to pull Cook out of the chair. In a struggle against the officers, Cook elbowed Valdez, who “punched Travis (Cook) in the face with a closed fist,” the report claims.

After this, “Clark performed a takedown on Travis” and when Cook continued to resist, “Thomas deployed his Taser,” the report states.

But the lawsuit claims Cook did not elbow Valdez or resist officers.

At Cook’s trial, he was acquitted of charges of assaulting his girlfriend, assaulting Valdez and resisting arrest. He was found guilty of obstructing a peace officer.

The lawsuit says Cook was only convicted of this charge because during his arrest, he attempted to show his bloody face to his mother, a witness at the scene who videotaped part of the incident.

In his report, Commander Eric Kellogg said he later spoke to Cook, who told Kellogg “that he did not mean to hit the officer. (H)e just needed to get some air.

“He said this three to four more times, explaining each time that he just needed some air and that he was not intending on resisting the officer,” it said.

The lawsuit alleges that this report was intentionally falsified, as were the reports filed by Valdez, Clark, Thomas and Arvada officer Devoney Cooke. Valdez, Clark and Thomas’s reports state Cook elbowed Valdez in the face; Kellogg and Cooke’s reports state Cook admitted to resisting officers.

The lawsuit alleges Sergeant Brian Thome, who conducted an Internal Affairs review, also falsified his report. Kellogg allegedly told Thome “that what Mr. Cook had repeatedly told him was that Mr. Cook just wanted to get some fresh air … not that he had hit Defendant Valdez,” the lawsuit said.

Thome is said to have interviewed the victim’s father, “who said that he had a clear view of the entire incident and that he never saw Mr. Cook hit Defendant Valdez,” the lawsuit said. “Sergeant Thome left this statement out of his report.”

These instances “evidence Arvada’s practice of ratifying, condoning, and covering up the use of excessive force,” it says.

Additionally, the lawsuit claims that Valdez had a minimum of 21 prior incidents of potential excessive force since 2011. It says that Valdez had undergone a “use of force review” each year since 2011, and these reviews only occur when an officer uses potential excessive force three times in a year.

But Arvada detective Dave Snelling said these reviews occur when officers use any amount of force three times in one year. This often includes force used “during an arrest or pursuit,” he said. “All of those may be justified.”

Cook seeks monetary damages, declaratory relief and injunctive relief, with the complaint filed in United States District Court.

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