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Aurora settles $285,000 police brutality lawsuit without admitting liability

ACLU: Racially biased policing embedded in department
Posted at 6:06 PM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-12 12:17:41-05

AURORA, Colo. -- The City of Aurora has agreed to pay $285,000 to settle a police brutality lawsuit filed by 32-year old Jamie Torres.

The ACLU says Torres was "illegally ordered out of his home" and "unjustifiably beaten" by officers who were called to investigate a noise complaint back in 2016.

Body cam video shows Torres was in his garage with two other men, the door was open, and music was playing, when officers arrived.

One of the officers ordered the men to exit the garage. Two of them did, but Torres remained inside while talking on his phone.

The officer yells, "Come here or you're going to go to jail. This is a lawful order to come here."

ACLU Legal Director Mark Silverstein told Denver7 that Torres was compliant with police orders, but hesitated because he doesn't understand English.

"And that delay," he said, "police interpreted as a defiance of their order."

Torres claims he was immediately thrown to the ground when he exited the garage, and that his arm was twisted in a painful lock.

You can hear him yell in pain on the police video.

The ACLU shared a photograph of Torres, which shows multiple bruises that occurred to his face after he made contact with the pavement.

When Torres was placed in the car, you can hear him ask for the officer's name.

"Mucho Malo," he told another officer. "Your officer is mucho malo," meaning very bad.

Torres was charged with a noise violation, resisting arrest and failure to obey a lawful order.

"In (municipal) court, Mr. Torres was acquitted of everything except the noise violation," Silverstein said.

The ACLU then filed a federal lawsuit, on Torres' behalf, alleging wrongful "warrantless" arrest, excessive force and physical brutality.

"We alleged that Aurora itself is responsible for the violation of Mr. Torres' rights, and one of the pieces of evidence of Aurora's liability was the Aurora judge holding up, I think, a photo of Mr. Torres with his face battered, and saying this is what happens when you don't pay attention to what police officers tell you to do, even though he had just been acquitted of failing to obey a lawful order."

Silverstein said what happened to Mr. Torres is part of an ugly and long-standing pattern of racially-biased policing in Aurora.

When asked about the settlement and allegations, Michael Bryant, Aurora's manager of public relations issued this statement: "The city has entered into a settlement agreement with Mr. Torres on this matter. As part of that agreement, the city did not admit liability in this case. This case was settled in part to avoid prolonged litigation, as many cases are. Regardless of any legal filings, the Aurora Police Department remains committed to ongoing reviews of its practices and procedures to offer the best service to our residents, and new Police Chief Vanessa Wilson has undertaken a plan to restore public trust in the department, called “A New Way,” available at"

Silverstein said the changes are going to take awhile, because "racially biased policing seems to be embedded in the department."

"It's going to take a long time to turn that ship around," he said. "In case, after case, after case, Aurora Police unnecessarily escalate tension, fear and ultimately violence when interacting with people of color."

Silverstein added, "While the size of Mr. Torres’ settlement suggests the significance of the wrongdoing in this case, it does not begin to serve justice. To this day, Mr. Torres suffers physically and emotionally from that incident, and racialized police violence in Aurora has continued unabated. David Baker, The Gilliam Family, Elijah McClain and many more people of color have all been harmed at the hands of Aurora Police.”

He said reform efforts are urgent.