DENVER — A 16-year veteran police officer has been fired for using “egregiously disproportionate” force to subdue a woman who had been taken into custody for resisting arrest in the latest incident involving alleged police brutality in Denver.
Surveillance video of the July 2014 incident inside a police substation shows the officer, James Medina, placing his knee across the woman’s neck until she appears to go limp and slide off a bench inside a holding cell.
Medina was fired after he “violated several departmental rules and regulations” in the incident involving Seryina Trujillo, who was accused of resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer, the city’s Department of Safety said on Tuesday.
The officer also was accused of not seeking medical help for Trujillo and not reporting the incident, according to his termination letter.
“The level of force he used … was egregiously disproportionate and placed Ms. Trujillo at great risk of serious bodily injury or death,” it said. “There are no significant mitigating factors present to warrant anything other than the presumptive penalty of termination.”
Medina’s lawyer, Donald Sisson, said there is “absolutely no basis” for the officer to have been fired, and that he has filed an appeal with the city’s civil service board.
The firing comes as the Denver Police Department faces heightened scrutiny following multiple use-of-force incidents.
In January, two officers fatally shot a 17-year-old girl inside a stolen car. Last month, an officer who cost the city more than $1 million to settle excessive force claims was reassigned to desk duty.
According to Medina’s termination report, he and a female officer were trying to take an intoxicated man into custody at a fast food restaurant when Trujillo interfered and was arrested.
The report said she also seemed to be inebriated or on drugs, and that as she was being led away in handcuffs Trujillo spat in the female officer’s face and then kicked Medina in the face as he placed her in his patrol car.
At the police station she refused to remove her shoes and belt and Medina then used force to get her to comply, and “likely caused her to become unconscious,” the report said.
Medina’s attorney said he does not believe Trujillo ever passed out, and that instead she was “smirking” at the police officer during the altercation.
“She was biting, kicking and clawing, and my client was the one with open wounds,” Sisson said.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Will Dunham)