Excessive-force lawsuit filed against three former Denver police officers

A lawsuit alleging police brutality by a former Denver sergeant and two other officers was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court. All three have resigned from the department.

The lawsuit, filed by Malow M. Mayek in federal court in Denver, also names the city of Denver in the complaint against former Sgt. Joseph Rodarte and former officers Douglass Watson and James Martinez.

On Aug. 22, 2018, the three arrested Mayek, age 17 at the time, allegedly beating the unarmed teenager, who was high on LSD, breaking his nose and leg in the process.

Rodarte was charged and tried on two counts of assault for the incident and was acquitted by a Denver jury on Oct. 2, 2019. Rodarte resigned from the department in June.

Rodarte, according to the lawsuit, struck Mayek multiple times with a baton, including in the face. Watson and Martinez used a Taser on Mayek, who suffered a critical head injury, fractured nose, bone fractures in his right leg and facial cuts, among other injuries.

“At no point during the officers’ pursuit and apprehension of Mr. Mayek did he present any threat to the officers or anyone else,” the lawsuit claims.

Five people in Denver’s Ruby Hill neighborhood called police before the incident to describe Mayek as “very high or has something wrong.”

The lawsuit claims the police response was extreme and unjustified, part of a longtime department pattern of violence and brutality.

“Defendant Denver has a policy, custom, and practice of excessive use of force, epitomized in Defendant Rodarte’s more than twenty-year career with DPD,” the lawsuit claims. “Beyond its obligation to impose meaningful discipline on its personnel for their unconstitutional conduct, Defendant Denver has the responsibility to properly train and supervise its law enforcement officers in complying with constitutional requirements during encounters with citizens. Systemically, Defendant Denver has failed in this responsibility and is to blame for enabling and encouraging the conduct of its officers in beating and tasing Mr. Mayek.”

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