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Denver settles another protester police abuse case

DENVER — Denver City Council voted Monday to settle another lawsuit with a protestor from 2020, marking more than $4 million in settlements from a summer of protests.

The $350,000 awarded to Michael Jacobs is related to a protest over a homeless encampment. Jacobs’ attorney said two Denver Police officers detained Jacobs for allegedly jostling a fence. He said one of the officers punched Jacobs in the head while the other thrust a baton into Jacobs’ anus area.

“They beat the living heck out of me,” Jacobs said.

> Body camera footage from two different Denver Police officers showing the encounter

Jacobs said during the encounter with police, he tore his rotator cuff, which required surgery. He said the trauma of that night gave him panic attacks.

“I’m excited that it’s finally done,” Jacobs said of the settlement. “I’m a little numb. It took three years.”

Jacobs said he hopes the payout will inspire change within the department.

“It shows that we can hold these people accountable. It shows that, you know, there are people who want to do the right thing. So we just got to focus on these wins. You got to keep pushing in the right direction.”

> Cell phone video of the encounter

Michelle Sisneros, a spokeswoman for Denver’s City Attorney’s Office, said the city has paid $3,832,500 in settlements related specifically to the George Floyd protests of 2020. Jacobs’ case isn’t included in that number as he was protesting another issue.

In March 2022, a federal jury awarded $14 million to protesters who filed suit against the city over police brutality. The city is currently appealing that judgment, Sisneros said.

“I think it shows that they have real issues with the use of force, particularly as it relates to protesters,” Felipe Bohnet-Gomez, Jacobs’ attorney, said. “You’ve got people who are doing nothing but exercising their First Amendment rights. And they’re met with a very heavy-handed police response.”

Since the 2020 protests and a scathing report from Denver’s Office of the Independent Monitor over missteps in the police response, the department agreed to make changes.

“There haven’t been any significant protests lately,” Bohnet-Gomez said. “So I think that will be the test if they take a different approach next time.”

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