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Woman Claims Excessive Force In Lawsuit Against Denver Police Officers

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DENVER (CBS4)- A woman at the center of a disagreement between Denver’s independent monitor, who oversees Denver law enforcement and safety agencies, and the Denver Police Department and Manager of Safety, over whether excessive use of force was used has filed a federal lawsuit.

A CBS4 investigation obtained surveillance videotapes, photos and interviews from the case which stemmed from a police call at the Renaissance West End Flats located at 1490 Zenobia Street on Dec. 28, 2012. Police say they received a 911 hang up call from apartment 315.

Patricia Lucero (credit; CBS)

Patricia Lucero (credit; CBS)

When two officers arrived to follow up on the 911 call, officers said they heard loud arguing emanating from the apartment. The occupants, identified as Patricia Lucero and Nickie Penaflor, had both been drinking and fighting.

Officers found Penaflor had an outstanding warrant so they arrested him. Lucero, however, was not wanted and was not arrested for a crime. But one of the two officers, Marika Putnam, decided to take Lucero to detox due to her inebriation and aggressiveness.

An image of Patricia Lucero  being escorted out of the apartment building (credit; CBS)

An image of Patricia Lucero being escorted out of the apartment building (credit; CBS)

After being handcuffed, surveillance videotape from interior cameras at the apartment complex, reviewed and aired by CBS4, show Lucero twice crashing into walls headfirst while handcuffed and under the control of Officer Putnam. In written reports, police blame Lucero for causing herself to crash into walls. In one police account, summarizing Putnam’s actions, it says, “This redirecting action (by Putnam) caused Lucero to stumble forward and strike her head on the elevator alcove wall.”

In a statement, Putnam said that in the first crash into a wall, “I spun her around to move her to a safer position.” On the second time that Lucero ran into a wall, the officer said, “I believe that she stumbled due to her high intoxication level.” Asked if she had intentionally run Lucero into a wall, Putnam responded, “No.”

By the time Lucero reached the lobby of her apartment building she was bleeding profusely from a head wound. She was hospitalized and received stitches.

“She had no reason to hit me that hard,” Lucero later told a police sergeant in a videotaped interview. “We were walking to the elevator and she banged my head against the wall.”

Lucero complained she was a victim of excessive force. But a Denver police internal review of the incident exonerated Officer Putnam of unnecessary force. Chief White signed off on that recommendation.

However, Denver’s independent monitor, Nick Mitchell, took the opposite view, writing that Lucero was a victim of excessive force.

Lucero has filed a federal lawsuit against the two officers and the City and County of Denver.

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