DENVER (CBS4)– The City of Denver is appealing the reduced suspension given to a Denver Sheriff’s deputy who mistakenly released the wrong inmate from the city jail in 2012.
A CBS4 Investigation has now obtained video of the accidental release of inmate Elvie Bellamy.
According to documents in the case and the newly released video, Bellamy was supposed to be released from the Denver jail into the custody of the Colorado State Patrol on October 29, 2012. But the jail accidentally set Bellamy free on to the streets of Denver.
He was recaptured 24 hours later, after a bizarre search led by Denver Sheriff’s Deputy Bruce Mitchell, who was held responsible for mistakenly releasing Bellamy in the first place.
The erroneous release led to Bellamy receiving a 28-day suspension in 2013, but Career Service Hearing Officer Valerie Mcnaughton reduced that suspension to 16 days in a ruling released in May 2014.
“The erroneous release offenses carrying a penalty of 16 days suspension is supported by the evidence,” wrote Mcnaughton.
The City of Denver is now appealing that ruling seeking the longer suspension that was initially imposed.
“The Manager of Safety has appealed the modification of Deputy Mitchell’s suspension by the hearing officer to the full Career Service Board,” said City Attorney D. Scott Martinez. “That appeal is pending. Neither the Manager of Safety’s Office, the Denver Sheriff Department nor the City Attorney’s Office will comment on a pending appeal of a personnel matter.”
In the video released to CBS4, Mitchell, who has been a Deputy Sheriff for 16 years, was manning the release office. When Bellamy approached him, Mitchell admits he had been surfing Craigslist. After glancing at some forms, Mitchell directs Bellamy to a door which leads to the jail lobby and the building exit.
Bellamy appears puzzled but follows the deputy’s directions. He is then seen walking into the jail lobby, glancing around then walking out the front door and into the night.
Minutes later, Deputy Mitchell realized his mistake and planned to go search for Bellamy using a department vehicle. When the staff car was not available, Mitchell took his own car and drove up and down Colfax in search of the missing inmate.
Somewhere near the state Capitol, Mitchell and a second deputy spotted an African American man who resembled Bellamy.
“They searched him and asked him for identification,” says a summary of the case.
The man had no identification but resembled Bellamy.
“The man did not object to their suggestion that they take him to the jail for identification.”
As soon as they got back to the jail however, another deputy said the man they had captured was not the prisoner who had been mistakenly released.
“The man they brought in was not Bellamy. Officers then drove the man back to Logan Street,” stated the city report.
The next day, a specialized task force found Bellamy at a hotel and he was returned to the jail.
Records show Deputy Mitchell, who estimated he has been responsible for the release of about 250,000 prisoners during his time at the release desk, was verbally reprimanded in 2010 and 2011 for two “unauthorized prisoner releases.”
A deputy safety manager said the detention and transport of another man mistakenly thought to be Bellamy was “outrageous and an abuse of (Mitchell’s) authority.”
That same official found Mitchell had violated departmental rules by allowing on-duty internet use to interfere with his job duties, neglect of duty and carelessness.
Deputy Safety Manager Jess Vigil said, “People would be outraged if they knew” about Deputy Mitchell’s conduct that night.
After the incident in question, the Denver Sheriff’s Department took multiple steps and made policy changes to put a stop to erroneous inmate releases.
Donald Sisson, Mitchell’s attorney, said Mitchell remains on the job during the appeal of his suspension. Sisson declined to make any additional comment about the case or the suspension.
City Attorney Scott Martinez told CBS4 there will likely be a decision from the Career Service Board before the end of the year.
According to state records, Elvie Bellamy is now in the state prison system.