City of Arvada settles police brutality suit for $100,000

Lawsuit stems from February 2018 domestic violence incident

Ryan Dunn
rdunn@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 8/31/21

The City of Arvada agreed to pay $100,000 to Travis Cook on June 15 as part of the settlement of a years-long legal ordeal stemming from a domestic violence incident which occurred on Feb. 11, 2018. …

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City of Arvada settles police brutality suit for $100,000

Lawsuit stems from February 2018 domestic violence incident

Posted

The City of Arvada agreed to pay $100,000 to Travis Cook on June 15 as part of the settlement of a years-long legal ordeal stemming from a domestic violence incident which occurred on Feb. 11, 2018. The terms of the settlement also called for the city to cover mediation fees and for all the case to be dismissed with prejudice.

On Feb. 18, 2018, Arvada Police responded to a loud argument between Cook and his girlfriend at Cook’s parents’ house. An altercation between Cook and APD officers Brandon Valdez, Scott Thomas and Ryan Clark ensued, which rendered Cook bruised and bloodied.

Cook was subsequently charged with two counts of domestic assault, resisting arrest and four other charges related to the incident. He was found guilty of misdemeanor resisting a peace officer and was sentenced to time served but was acquitted of all other charges and had two assault charges dismissed by the Jefferson County District Attorney.

Legal wrangling

On Jan. 27, 2020, Cook filed a civil suit against the city of Arvada and the three responding APD officers, alleging that the Valdez used excessive force in responding to the domestic violence incident.

The lawsuit claimed that Valdez “was rude, hostile and extremely aggressive with Mr. Cook,” and gave contradictory orders to Cook before using physical force in response to Cook’s noncompliance. The lawsuit also cited an officer involved shooting carried out by Valdez on Jan. 14, 2018 and called APD’s decision to keep the Valdez on patrol “deliberately indifferent” to public safety.

Further legal drama arose after Cook’s original attorney, Adam Frank, attached internal APD documents released under seal during the criminal trail to the civil complaint, making them public record. Frank also shared the documents with various media outlets.

In a March 19 discovery conference, U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson skewered Frank’s conduct and chided Cook’s new attorney, Erica Grossman, for continuing to pursue the case but did not move to dismiss Cook’s case against the city.

“I can’t even begin to tell you how offended I was by that (Frank’s) conduct,” said Jackson. “But for the research that my law clerk conducted for me and her very wise assessment in the context of the research, I would have done precisely what I expected to do, and that is to dismiss the case against the city. But she convinced me and the research that she came up with convinced me that was not an appropriate sanction. 

“And, second, I think your case against the city is lousy,” Jackson continued.

Grossman and Cook would end up dropping the suit and enter mediation, resulting in the $100,000 settlement.

Regarding the settlement, APD Public Relations Officer Dave Snelling said that the city’s decision to settle the case was not an indication of Valdez’s conduct in responding to the incident and called out Frank’s decision to release sealed documents.

“The settlement is not a court finding and we would hope there’s no presumptions of conduct by the Arvada Police Department,” said Snelling. “That is really disappointing conduct because (Frank) released information to the media and didn’t notify the city’s attorney.”

Snelling said that Valdez is still on active patrol with APD. A Critical Incident Response Team investigation into the Jan. 14 officer involved shooting cleared Valdez of any wrongdoing on March 19, 2018.

Valdez was also involved in an incident where he impounded the vehicle of Kyle Christopher Thomas during a traffic stop which was ruled unconstitutional by the Court of Appeals due to Valdez’s lack of a search warrant.

Snelling said that APD has a system in place to evaluate the competency of officers once they have been involved in a specific number of incidents during a given timeframe but did not confirm whether Valdez had been evaluated in that program, but said that the department’s “system of checks and balances” had been employed in this case.

“We have a warning system in place that is implemented if an officer is involved in certain incidents within a certain timeframe,” said Snelling. “It requires a supervisor’s attention to examine those incidents and speak to with that officer and ensure their well-being.

“When it comes to use of force, the Arvada Police Department has a system of checks and balances and those were in place and effective in this case,” Snelling continued.

As part of the terms of the settlement, Cook agreed to a confidentiality agreement that prohibits him from discussing the case.

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