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Activist say video shows DPD using excessive force on an unarmed homeless man

Former SWAT calls it 'textbook use of force'
Posted at 10:12 PM, Jan 18, 2017

DENVER -- Activists are outraged over a Denver Police body camera video that shows an officer using a Taser on an unarmed homeless man.

"He took an innocent step forward and got tased," said John Holland, the man's attorney.

The incident happened back in June after police were called to the scene on reports of a fight between homeless men.

In the video, the officer fires his Taser less than ten seconds after his first command.  

Holland said he believes it was clearly excessive force, and the officer did not give his client, Gregory Heard, enough time to comply.

"[It was] An unharmed person who wasn't threatening him," said Holland.

Heard is currently in jail on second-degree assault charges for the fight that prompted the police response.

"Most people who run into police are being suspected of something, the question is what did they do while being suspected by police -- this case is about police abuse of power," he said.

Denver7 also showed the video to Grant Whitus, a former Jefferson County SWAT team leader.

"The commands were clear, he should have understood him, he's holding a Taser at him," he said.

"Would you have done anything different if you were in this situation?" asked Denver7 reporter Jennifer Kovaleski.

"No, that was actually a perfect use of force," said Whitus.

He called the officer's action "textbook use of force" and pointed to the fact the man didn't listen to two of the officer's commands before using non-lethal force. 

Denver7 has transcribed the encounter between the officer and Heard below: 

Officer: "Hands up"

Heard: "I have nothing man."

Officer: "Okay"

Heard: "I have nothing, Okay. Look, look."

Officer: "Crawl out… Crawl out on your hands and knee, I'll ******* tase you."

Heard: "Don't tase me man."

Officer: "Turn around, stop right there."

Officer: "Stop."

Heard: "No, no, look."

"He stands up and you tell him to stop twice and he keeps coming, he's a threat," explained Whitus.

"At the Denver Justice Project we believe it didn't require use of force at all," said Alex Landau, a co-founder of the Denver Justice Project.

Activists like Landau see the video differently, and like Heard's attorney, are now pushing for action.

"This is just one more example of police running amuck," said Holland.

Holland said they plan to file a federal excessive force lawsuit seeking damages.

Denver Police said they could not comment on the video because the case is an on-going investigation. 

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