Nov 15, 2023 - News

Aurora officers to face trial over excessive force during George Floyd protests in Denver

Law enforcement officers fire pepper balls into a crowd of protesters gathered near Colfax Avenue and Broadway on the third day of George Floyd protests in Denver on May 30, 2020. Photo: Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images

A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a ruling that Aurora and three of its police officers must face trial for their use of force against two protestors during 2020 demonstrations in Denver after George Floyd's murder.

Why it matters: That verdict could have major financial implications for Aurora and potentially other municipalities that sent officers to assist with Denver's response to protests.

Of note: Last year, a federal jury made the groundbreaking decision to force Denver to pay $14 million to 12 people injured by its officers during those same protests.

Driving the news: In a 22-page ruling filed Nov. 14, the court found that a reasonable jury could hold that Aurora officers Cory Budaj, David McNamee and Patricio Serrant used less-lethal munition with "unconstitutionally excessive force" to "unthreatening" protesters who "neither committed a serious offense nor attempted to flee."

  • Police fired a lead-filled bag that hit plaintiff Zachary Packard in the head and left him unconscious with numerous fractured bones and bleeding in his brain.
  • The other plaintiff, Johnathen Duran, was shot by officers in the groin with a foam baton round.

What they're saying: The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado applauded the court's decision.

  • It "once again affirms the fundamental principle that police cannot use violence against peaceful protesters" and marks "another step in holding them accountable," Tim Macdonald, ACLU of Colorado's legal director, said in a statement.
  • A spokesperson for the Aurora declined our request for comment, citing pending litigation.

Catch up quick: In 2020, Aurora police helped Denver with its response to protests, thanks to an informal agreement between the two cities that allows them to share officers during mass protests or riots.

  • That deal, known as a mutual aid agreement, was severed by Aurora's city council this past July in an effort to protect its officers from liability in the future.
  • Aurora also sued Denver in May over who is responsible for costs incurred from lawsuits filed by George Floyd protesters.

What we're watching: Denver Mayor Mike Johnston, who was elected this year, told Axios Denver in early November that his administration continues to "inherit" new cases to manage as a result of police's actions in those demonstrations.

The big picture: Nationwide, dozens of lawsuits have been filed based on officers firing rubber bullets, pepper balls and other less-lethal projectiles at protesters during the summer of 2020, the AP reports.


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