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Man sues City of Denver after alleged 2020 racial profiling incident

Keilon Hill Arrested.jpg
Posted at 5:00 PM, Feb 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-05 15:51:58-05

DENVER — Almost two years after a minor car crash led to his arrest, 27-year-old Keilon Hill is suing the City of Denver and alleging that, as a Black man, Denver police officers racially profiled him and violated his constitutional rights.

“It was April 27, 2020 and I was on the interstate. I was driving home, minding my business, and I was in the middle and someone merged into my vehicle. It kind of just sideswiped me,” Hill said.

Hill said he waved the driver down, called 911, and paramedics arrived shortly after.

Police body camera shows while paramedics checked on Hill, a Denver Police Department (DPD) officer went to the other driver to find out what happened.

“After I was in the lane, he came in between me and the car that was in the lane…he was very aggressive,” the driver told officers in the video.

The video then captured the officer speaking to a colleague about the incident.

“He tries to thread the (expletive) needle between two lanes and he (expletive) side swipes and he’s being a (expletive),” the officer said. “I haven’t talked to him yet because (expletive) fire was all around him but I haven’t got his ID yet, but he looks like a turd.”

Eventually, the officer asked Hill to walk back to Hill’s car. At that time, Hill saw another officer searching his car, according to the video.

Hill walked toward the officer and asked why he searched the car. The officer said the car smelled like marijuana inside. The video shows Hill and the officer stepping toward each other. Several officers then grab Hill and put handcuffs on him. Once Hill was in custody, one officer was heard in the video saying Hill got in his face.

“How many constitutional violations can we see in one video?” Hill’s attorney Benjamin DeGolia asked. “They start by illegally searching his car with no warrant and no probable cause. He criticizes them for that, and they twist him around, throw him in handcuffs and throw in the back of their car. That's an unlawful arrest.”

Hill and DeGolia said police never found marijuana in his car. Read the probable cause statement here.

After Hill was in handcuffs, officers can be heard in the video referring to a monitoring device around Hill’s ankle.

“There was a incident where I had to have an ankle monitor put on me for a case that got dismissed because, again, the police don't do their due diligence,” Hill said.

Hill and DeGolia said this incident was a result of racial profiling.

“It's not like I charged him. It's not like I was cursing at him. I wasn't screaming at them. I literally asked him, 'Why are you in my car?'” Hill said.

Metropolitan State University of Denver Associate Criminal Justice Professor Stacey Hervey watched the video and said the interaction with the driver of the pickup truck seemed to set the tone for officers' interactions with Hill.

“I think when I watch the full video, obviously, the officers talk to the people in the black truck first and they say he’s aggressive. So I think the perception in the police officer's mind was that this person was already aggressive,” Hervey said. “You have to realize that when when people get within that proximity of police officers, oftentimes there can be injuries, and many police officers are killed with their own gun.”

But Hervey said the incident could’ve been handled differently.

“It seems like it could have been de-escalated by all parties,” Hervey said.

But Hill and DeGolia said it was the officers responsibility to de-escalate the situation.

“The officers arrested Mr. Hill because he was criticizing their conduct,” DeGolia said. “The Denver Police Department has a racial bias problem.”

Following his arrest, Hill said he asked an officer to go to the hospital but was denied.

“I told him (the officer) that several times: 'I need to go to the doctor.' I'm not sure who injured me, what injured me. I was just in a car accident, you know, so that could have injured me. I just really needed to go to the doctor,” Hill said.

Hill said weeks prior to the incident he sustained a neck injury and underwent surgery. Hill said he was concerned that the physical force involved in the arrest may have hurt his neck.

Hill spent 24 hours in jail and was charged with interference with police activity.

The charge was later dismissed but Hill said he is moving forward with his lawsuit against the city.

Hill has not specified how much money he’s seeking but said he wants justice and he wants the officers involved in his arrest to be disciplined.

Denver7 reached out to the Denver Police Department regarding this case. The Department of Safety sent the following statement:

"A complaint was received and reviewed by the Internal Affairs Bureau of the Denver Police Department. A review of the evidence in the case, including the body worn camera video did not support the allegations of inappropriate force. However, the Department recognized the language used by Officer Ludwig was inappropriate and he was counseled and reminded to maintain his professionalism during the course of his duties. This case was reviewed by the Denver District Attorney and was declined for further charges. The Office of the Independent Monitor reviewed the case and approved the declination of further investigation," the statement read.

The decline letter can be viewed here.