DENVER (CBS4) – The City of Denver is paying $500,000 of taxpayer money to a couple who made claims that Denver police officers used excessive force on them during a traffic stop in 2017. The settlement was unanimously approved by city council Monday night, and body camera video was released by the plaintiffs’ attorney on Tuesday.
In the first minute of the video, as the officer initiates the traffic stop, he senses emotions are running high.
“She looks like she’s yelling at me,” he tells the officer with him in the car.
When the driver stops she is in her driveway and immediately steps out of the vehicle. Her husband was in the yard waiting for her.
“How you doing?” The officer asked the man.
“Do me a favor ma’am, stay in the car. You are being pulled over,” he told the driver.
“Why?” She creams back
“I’ll tell you in a minute,” he said.
Within three minutes of the video the driver is handing over registration.
Five minutes into the body camera video the traffic stop turns into an arrest and officers are wrestling with the driver and her husband.
“What I saw based on my experience as a civil rights attorney was a verbal exchange that law enforcement needlessly escalated into a serious use of force incident,” Michael Fairhurst said.
Fairhurst is the attorney for the driver, Krystin Stonskas, and her husband, Quennel Steele. He says his clients suffered serious injuries, including a traumatic brain injury.
He believes the city’s decision not to go to court is based largely on the body camera video.
“I believe on the strength of the body cam video we were able to resolve this case before the filing of a lawsuit.”
In response, a spokesperson for the City Attorney’s office says they firmly believe the settlement is in the best interest of the city and taxpayers.
Denver Police Union president, Nick Rogers, says after watching that same video he’s appalled by the city’s decision. In a statement Rogers said,
“An individual that is stopped for a traffic violation doesn’t have the right to dictate how the contact proceeds. There is an element of officer safety that needs to be adhered to and the City Attorney’s decision sets a precedent that is detrimental to police officers, but more importantly law-abiding citizens.”
Fairhurst says they think the settlement is one step toward accountability but believe there’s a lot of work to be done in the Denver Police Department asking now the officers be disciplined and changes made in training.