Lawsuit Threatened Over Taped DPD Takedown

Written by Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4) – An Aurora man is preparing to file a lawsuit against the Denver Police Department over the way he was arrested last May during a vice and narcotics raid at a Denver swingers club.

The episode, which 33-year-old Brad Mitchell calls a case of “excessive force,” was captured on videotape that has now been obtained and broadcast by CBS4.

“It makes my stomach sick. It’s hard to watch. It’s still hard to watch,” said Kendall Seifert, the owner of the club.

CBS4 showed the videotape last week to Lt. Matt Murray, a spokesperson for the Denver Police Department. Murray said DPD hadn’t seen the tape until then.

“Apparently the first time he’s going to raise this issue is with a TV station,” Murray said, noting that Mitchell had not filed an official excessive force complaint with the department. “It’s pretty difficult for us to address an issue if he doesn’t want to bring it to our attention.”

The incident occurred May 5, 2010 at the Scarlet Ranch, a swingers club at 424 Broadway. Police raided the establishment after saying they received information suggesting illegal drugs were being sold at the club. They also said they were checking to see if the club was engaged in illegal alcohol sales. The club is not licensed to sell alcohol.

space Lawsuit Threatened Over Taped DPD Takedown

The videotape obtained by CBS4 shows at least half a dozen Denver vice and narcotics officers entering the club through the front door at about 10 p.m. on a Thursday night. They are greeted by Mitchell, a bartender. The tape — which has no audio — shows Mitchell handing his identification to officers immediately after they enter. By all accounts, Mitchell repeatedly asked the officers if they had a warrant to search the club. They told him they didn’t need one.

Mitchell is then seen sitting and waiting as police go about their business. After a few minutes, Sgt. Daniel Steele of the vice and narcotics unit returns to the area where Mitchell is sitting and asks him for a key to a locked office so police could check on the Scarlet Ranch’s license and obtain identification for another club employee. According to Steele’s written statement, Mitchell said, “No, get a warrant.” Steele said when he asked Mitchell for the key a second time, the bartender “mumbled a profanity to me.”

Steele says he then told Mitchell he was interfering with the investigation and ordered the man to stand up. The Sgt. says when Steele did not stand up, he grabbed his left wrist and put him in a “twist lock” hold to stand him up. Within seconds the videotape shows Mitchell standing and lurching forward. It’s unclear if the movement was caused by the wrist lock or by Mitchell moving on his own. Steele quickly puts Mitchell in a headlock and throws him to the ground.

In his statement, Steele says he did this because Mitchell “pulled free of my hands,” was “uncooperative, hostile demeanor as well as his attempts to prevent his own arrest and my control; I determined the suspect posed a significant officer safety risk to myself and the officers posted nearby.”
After being taken down two other officers join in with one of them applying three knee strikes to Mitchell’s leg. The officer says this was needed to get Mitchell to comply.

The club’s owner was out of the country but viewed the videotape when he returned. He doesn’t believe the tape shows any resistance.

“He’s standing there, hands at his side, doesn’t fight, doesn’t put his hands up to protect himself. It makes me have a knot in my stomach watching them grab Brad, who is compliant,” Seifert said.

Mitchell ended up with a small scrape on his forehead that did not require medical attention. Through his attorney, he declined to discuss what happened. Attorney Lon Heymann said he and Mitchell would only discuss the arrest after they filed a lawsuit against Denver police.

CBS4 showed the videotape and police reports of what happened to Mark Leone, a former Denver police lieutenant who is now a professor of criminal justice at Westwood College.

“The officers acted properly,” Leone said. “Does it look bad? Yes. But law enforcement is a full contact sport.”

Leone concluded that the videotape does not depict excessive force.

“When an officer decides action needs to be taken, action needs to be taken swiftly.”

Police arrested Mitchell for resistance, interference, dispensing alcohol without a license and for providing glasses/mixers for alcohol. Mitchell estimates he spent 13 hours in jail before being released. Five months after the incident, a Denver Judge dismissed all charges against Mitchell. That decision was apparently triggered because at least one police witness did not show up for court dates.

Murray said if Mitchell files an official complaint, the department will investigate what happened. Murray added, ‘If he had complied with a lawful order, none of this would have happened.”

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  • DenverLegalGuy

    After watching the video, the man has no case. But the more important question is why is this Denver swingers club still open after all the raids and complaints? Furthermore, why would anyone pay $100 to go into a swingers club that has video cameras all over. I’m sure the exhibitionists like it but I would bet that most people have no idea they have no privacy.

    • Jules & Robert

      Scottie Ewing……..get a life. This comment sounds like it is from thepimp that the feds busted . He is trying to compete with Scarlet Ranch. Never will.

  • BNT

    We have been to Scarlet Ranch a few times and stopped going after they were on the news a few months ago and got caught passing out ecstasy. Now we will NEVER set foot in there knowing there are video cameras. What a creep the owner is. It’s supposed to be a private club. How can there be privacy when there are video cameras and all the news coverage?

    • Betty

      Scarlet Ranch has neve rgiven out drugs, nor have they ever been charged with such. Get a life.

    • Robert Garcia

      we went there a month ago and some almost naked guy said he was a “volunteer” there and offered us pink pills, when my girl friend asked what it was he said ” X”. Enough said .

      • Gerry

        That is not true. You are just a lier and a fraud. If you have ever been to Scarlet Ranch, there are no “almost naked” dudes there.

        Scarlet Ranch is a classy, cool, private club that has cameras and requires a state issued photo ID, which keeps those kind of people out. Never one issue in over 8 years, except of course those from the outside by Scottie Ewing and his want-to-be-thugs.

        Get a life.

  • carson

    How come they didn’t need a warrant? Moreover, how was Brad Mitchell to know if they were lying about the warrant situation? Anyone who knows reality knows that some cops lie. It’s an unfair situation for the civilians, whilst being cushy for the cops. There should be more balance.

    If they really didn’t need a warrant, they should have done a better job convincing Mitchell of that. Just having any cops say “we don’t need a warrant” means nothing. They could be lying.

  • carson

    I think it’s also interesting that the police think they should be contacted before a news station. The civilian can contact whoever they want whenever they want. The police think they should get first shot at it? ha!

    • TRM

      Carson: The police never said they “should” be contacted first, they were just noting that they still have not been contacted. Most people, when they feel they are wronged, first make their case through official channels, then resort to media and legal help if they believe they were not treated fairly or legally. When guys like this don’t even report a problem until months later, then go straight to the media, it’s pretty obvious that he’s got his hand out, looking for a pay-off. Unfortunately, that comes at the tax payers’ expense. Guys like this are ripping us all off.

      • Not TRM

        TRM – The police are not well known for admitting that any one of them ever does anything wrong. Even when the video evidence is overwhelming, the usual outcome is “No wrongdoing”, or “Justifiable force”. Why would anyone think that going to the police first would produce a fair outcome? The only thing obvious is that you have not yet been victimized by the Gestapo that we call our police department.

  • jb80538

    Frankly, I”m thinking if the officers wanted to go behind locked doors without a warrant, they were in the wrong. He did the right thing and may have a good case against Denver PD! Never been to this place never heard of it either. But I do know without a warrant, law enforcement cant go behind locked doors.

  • mary

    If you listen to the news report, one of the officers says…(and I will quote)…”law enforcement is a contact sport”. Since when is law enforcement a sport!!! This really makes me sick to my stomach. The law is the law…..not a sport. You do not deserve the position nor the badge that you have or have gotten a “medal’ for…..LOSER!!!!!

  • jdavid

    I like how they blame the victim for the way he handled being “assaulted” by the police. Then they ask a former police officer if it was appropriate force. What is he gonna say? How about asking the obviously compiant man to stand up and turn around? This is obviously a case where the police got angry the bartender did not comply in the manner they hoped so they used force to subdue him. Denver cops do this all the time. When will it change?

    PS. if you are involved in any way with denver cops and you try to stand up for yourself or your employer…be ready for a beating.

  • JP

    Come on Brian. I think this was a weak story and not one of your better Maassterpieces. Is the Sergeant’s name really DANIEL STEELE? I bet he was picked on as a kid. It’s February, why didn’t this guy come forward sooner if he was truly injured or thought the cops did something wrong? I’m not a lawyer but I was a bartender in college to make some extra cash, so I guess I’m just as qualified. I know in Denver if you have a restaurant, liquor, or cabaret, license, the cops don’t need a warrant to come in and inspect the property. They came in at will where I tended bar and would check behind locked doors and in the walk in refrigerator and freezer. They looked for violations and made sure our license was up to date. I guess in some capacity it’s like the health department inspector coming in to check the kitchen at a restaurant, they don’t need a warrant either. I guess your forfeit some of your rights to get the license to operate. Not sure what kind of license you need for a swingers club, but my guess is the cops didn’t need a warrant.

  • Bugs Bunny

    Scarlet Ranch is a private club, meaning the police DO need a warrant to search. More importantly the cops found NOTHING after the illegal search. I have heard online posters claim the club has been raided numerous times, this is simply not true. The only other “raid” was a visit from the fire dept. If the club was handing out extasy someone would have been charged as such. Fox news ran a bs story that made that allegation in mid may ’10, they ran this story AFTER the illegal search knowing full well it resulted in no drug charges. The reality is the Scarlet Ranch is a bastion of freedom where people can express in ways not possible outside in our puritanical society. These members have no interest in drugs or the trash that comes along with them, what they experience is so much more profound than any chemical could ever be.

  • Kathy B

    The raid was after Fox News and Heidi Hemmat produced a story she knew was false stating the staff was giving away ecstasy,she said proven by an “undercover” person who had come in to the club.

    The problem is the “undercover couple” was Daryl & Theresa Orr, employees of Fox News that were actually members of Scarlet Ranch earlier in the year and they were kicked out for offering ecstasy to other members.

    This false report prompted Denver Police to raid the club (without a warrant) and tear it apart looking for drugs. None were found, but they gave them several tickets for what they said were liqueur violations. The judge dismissed them all.

  • Carson

    Murray is lying. Denver police saw the video when Scarlet Ranch and their attorneys provided their evidence to the city before trial. Daniel Steele refused (multiple times) to show up to court. Why? Because he knew he lied and Scarlet Ranch had video to prove it.


  • David d.

    Scarlet ranch is a private club huh? Then how did undercover cops get in? Seems to me any Joe blow off the street can go and pay a “membership” at any time. Fact is, scarlet ranch and Kendall having been evading the law for years, trying to hide behind the whole private club notion. Kendall wants to avoid havin to run a legitimate business like every other bar, club, strip joint. It’s easier to claim police wrongdoing instead! Unbelievable, gotta love our judicial system.

    • Joey

      So you don’t like private clubs or organizations?

      What is it you think Kendall is getting? He has not asked for anything.

      David d. = Scottie Ewing (the swinger/pimp busted by the feds)

      Another type of bar would be an easier deal. Scarlet Ranch could sell booze and make a killing.

    • John B.

      Hey David d. (Scottie Ewing)

      Scarlet Ranch has always been a legal private club. Poor Scottie Ewing got his ass busted for not paying taxes on his prostitution busines and ran his ass out of town after never making a real living.

      Get a life.

  • Wilma Flintstone

    Sorry David D, but you are wrong! Scarlet Ranch is private, my husband and I pay yearly dues to belong. That being said, I am very alarmed that there are cameras throughout the bar. Quite frankly we will not be returning after seeing the other members faces all over the news!

    • Real Wilma

      ummm…any and all members of Scarlet Ranch see their cameras. They are very much in the open and are actually the only thing you see as you enter the building.

      Nice fake posting though :)

      • Bethany Trump

        Oh really, Kendall says he DOES NOT KEEP COPIES OF YOUR PHOTO ID”S..Wanna BET, IVE SEEN THEM ! Illegal !

    • Beverly Borner

      Wilma, not only are there cameras, your copy of your drivers lic IS in FACT on file inside the club. Might want to check it out !

  • David d.

    Paying dues doesn’t make it private! If you google scarlet ranch right now there are ads all over the Internet! Anyone can come to the club at any time! How the f–k is that private? You’re an idiot.

  • Sammy&Lonn

    Ads? I searched the internet and could not find a single ad. People or groups that talk about Scarlet Ranch are everywhere, but there are no ads.

    The only ads we could find were for Sugar House, the place run by the pimp that was charged this year for failing to pay taxes on his prostitution business. They also have cameras in their swinger bar.

    If you have seriously look hard to find Scarlet Ranch. We have been members for better then three years and enjoy the way the owner protects the members with the use of cameras. It keeps out the drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes.

    Better yet, it makes Denver police responsible for their actions.

  • GSan

    Hey Sammy, you didn’t look very hard:
    By the way: it’s only “private” in the sense that you apply and pay dues to belong. A business that’s licensed thru the city under any of the liquor or cabaret laws has no privacy when it comes to inspections by the vice cops. That also applies to businesses that should have a cabaret license but fail to get one.

    • Tommy

      GSan – A website is an ad? Nope, that does not count. Every organization and group in todays times uses a website to post information for their members.

      As far as we could find, Scarlet Ranch has no advertisements.

      Go to school for a bit or better yet law school.

      If Scarlet Ranch sold liquor, they would need a cabaret license, but they do not.

      • raquell ortiz

        Hey Tommy go to youll see Scarlet Ranch ads all over !

  • B is better

    • Kenny02

      Scarlet Ranch does not advertise anywhere. That is why they are the best and largest swingers communtee in the world. Scarlet Ranch… ROCK! Keep up the great work!

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