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Denver to pay $350,000 for violent police arrest during protest of homeless sweep

Denver will pay $350,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a man who said he was needlessly tackled, punched and beaten in the genitals by police officers while protesting the sweep of a homeless encampment three years ago.

The City Council, during its meeting on Monday afternoon, approved the settlement in a unanimous vote.

The payout stems from a lawsuit brought last year by Michael Jacobs against more than a dozen Denver police officers. The arrest was traumatic, Jacobs said Thursday, and negatively affected his professional and personal life.

“I haven’t really been protesting much since this happened,” he said. “It took such a toll on my mental health.”

Jacobs was attending a protest in Civic Center on July 29, 2020, related to the city clearing out an encampment of people experiencing homelessness. He was standing beside, and rattling, a chain-link fence when officers, without any verbal commands, pulled him to the ground, according to the lawsuit and body-camera footage.

One officer punched Jacobs in the head multiple times, while another used a baton to ram Jacobs in the genitals as other officers held him down, the lawsuit alleged.

Jacobs repeatedly asked what he was being arrested for. Officers told him he was being detained for trespassing, the body-cam footage showed, despite the fact that he was on the sidewalk.

The Denver district attorney charged Jacobs with a felony for allegedly trying to disarm an officer of his pepper ball gun, though the charges were later dismissed.

It’s notable that none of the more than a dozen officers standing nearby intervened in the excessive force, Jacobs’ attorney Felipe Bohnet-Gomez said. Officers have a responsibility to intervene.

All of the officers were cleared of excessive force by Denver Public Safety officials, though an officer was reprimanded for failing to make a report, one was reprimanded for violating body camera policy and three supervisors were reprimanded for not following the department’s complaint investigation policy.

A spokesman for the department declined to comment on the settlement.

“There’s not going to be any meaningful change until there’s accountability on the individual officer level,” Bohnet-Gomez said.

Jacobs told The Denver Post last year that he suffered a torn rotator cuff from the incident that required surgery. The ordeal forced him to take a leave from work and two semesters off from school.

Jacobs said Thursday that he plans to return to protesting for human rights in the near future.

“Rest assured, I’ll be back out there,” he said.

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