Protester sues Denver PD for excessive force

Another federal lawsuit over Denver police’s handling of the 2020 George Floyd protests has been allowed to proceed. A case filed by Robert Dayton alleges that on May 31, 2020, four unidentified officers hit him with several pepper balls, and one struck him in the elbow with a flash-bang grenade. Dayton claims he was protesting peacefully and the officers fired the munitions without warning. While the four officers were not identified, the lawsuit also names as defendants former Denver PD chief Paul Pazen and retired Cmdr. Patrick Phelan.

According to the lawsuit, “Mr. Dayton was repeatedly shot with pepper balls by Denver Police Department (“DPD”) officers while peacefully protesting. When Mr. Dayton sat down to recover from the dramatic and excessive use of force he experienced, DPD officers threw a Noise Flash Diversionary Device (“flash-bang grenade”) directly at Mr. Dayton. The flash-bang grenade exploded on Mr. Dayton’s elbow. Terrified and in immense pain, Mr. Dayton fled the protest and would not return. What happened to Mr. Dayton had played out in the preceding days and would continue to play out in subsequent days. It was how DPD officers policed the protests: through a show of brutal and excessive force meant to intimidate those who were peacefully protesting into leaving.

The case adds to an already long list of lawsuits alleging that Denver police used excessive force when they deployed kinetic weapons and chemical irritants indiscriminately against civilians during the 2020 protests sparked by George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.

The defendants sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, arguing that Dayton hasn’t made a case for the city’s liability, and Phelan and Pazan have requested qualified immunity. A federal judge decided earlier in the month that the lawsuit can proceed and denied qualified immunity for Pazen and Phelan.

What is qualified immunity?

Leading Denver police brutality lawyers say that qualified immunity has long been used by law enforcement agents all over the country to get away with misconduct and the use of violence against peaceful protesters. “Qualified immunity protects a government official from lawsuits alleging that the official violated a plaintiff’s rights, only allowing suits where officials violated a “clearly established” statutory or constitutional right”. 

When determining whether a right was “clearly established,” courts consider whether a reasonable official would have known that the defendant’s conduct violated the plaintiff’s rights. Courts must look at the law that was in force at the time of the incident, not the one in effect when the case is being heard. In Denver, the police code of conduct was drastically amended following the 2020 protests. 

What types of damages can you recover for police brutality in a Denver lawsuit?

Mr.Dayton claims that his injury limited his ability to work in his job as an electrical engineer and he had to close his side business of electronics assembly. Colorado police brutality lawyers can help you win economic damages for lost earnings as well as for your medical expenses. At the same time, you can seek compensation for your pain and suffering. 

If you were a victim of any type of police misconduct, you should contact an experienced civil rights lawyer at the Bryan & Terrill law firm to see if you have a case.

Contact info:

Bryan & Terrill

333 W. Hampden Ave., #420B

Englewood, CO 80110

(720) 923-2333


Cornell Law School – Qualified Immunity

Federal judge allows another lawsuit over Denver police actions during 2020 protests to proceed

Photo: Wikimedia Commons