“Use of force often is not pretty,” Cmdr. Matt Murray said Friday in response to a video that surfaced this week showing Denver officers punching a drug suspect in the face and knocking down his pregnant girlfriend.
Bystander Levi Frasier filmed Denver officers piling on top of 26-year-old David Nelson Flores as they tried to arrest the man on a drug charge back in August. Flores allegedly had stuffed a sock with heroin into his mouth.
“Officers had no choice but to punch Flores to force him to spit out the heroin, Cmdr. Murray said. “Swallowing it could have been fatal. It is difficult for people to see that the officer would strike him to bring him into compliance.”
As the officers continued wrestling with Flores, Mayra Lazos-Guerrero, 25, approached the melee. An officer tripped the clearly pregnant woman, forcing her to fall to the ground.
Again, Murray says it was reasonable for the officer to take Lazos-Guerrero to the ground. “The officers did not know what her intentions may have been when she approached, and they had a right to protect themselves,” he said. “They were wrestling with a felon to arrest him, and she jumped in. It’s unfortunate the pregnant woman chose to jump in.”
Watch local news coverage containing the raw footage:
Flores and Lazos-Guerrero were arrested on drug and child abuse charges, according to court documents.
“The officers filled out a use-of-force report, and the incident was investigated by the department’s internal affairs bureau,” Murray said. “No wrongdoing was found with the punching or the tripping. On each level, the officers were found to be within the law and within the department’s policy.”
The man who filmed the video, Levi Frasier has accused the officers of taking his tablet and deleting the video. He told a local reporter he was able to retrieve the video because it had been stored in the cloud.
Murray says an additional internal investigation has been launched to investigate that claim.