A 27-year-old Black man filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging three Denver officers violated his civil rights in 2020 when they racially profiled him, illegally searched his vehicle and unlawfully arrested him after a minor traffic accident.
“The unmistakable subtext throughout this encounter is that Mr. Hill would not have been subjected to this torment but for the color of his skin,” the lawsuit reads.
Keilon Hill, 27, called 911 after the minor crash with a truck on Interstate 25 on April 27, 2020. The lawsuit names three officers and the City and County of Denver.
When the first responding officer arrived, Thomas Ludwig, Hill was being attended to by paramedics, body camera footage provided by Hills attorney shows.
Ludwig leaves to speak with the occupants of the truck, two white men. The men told Ludwig that Hill attempted to thread his car between lanes and hit them, and that Hill was aggressive when they pulled over.
After talking with the men, Ludwig told Officer Gary Yampolsky that he still needed Hill’s ID and that Hill was “being a dick,” without speaking to him first.
“He looks like a turd,” Ludwig said in the body camera footage.
At this time, Hills is being examined by medical staff in an ambulance, but then leaves along side Yamposky. Hill sees Ludwig looking through his car and says “Bro, what’re you doing in my car?,” Yampolsky’s body camera shows.
Ludwig told Hill he was searching his vehicle because he “smelled marijuana,” body camera footage shows.
Hill tells the officers that they had no right to search his car. At this time, both Ludwig and Yampolsky grab his arms, pushed him onto the hood of his car and handcuffed him.
Hill is heard saying “What? Dude, really?” in the body camera footage which leads to Ludwig replying while shouting, “What are you doing stepping to me, huh? Getting in my face? I don’t think so, dude.”
Hill asks the officers why he’s being arrested and Yampolsky is said “Stepping to the cops” and told him he was “being an (explicit) to everyone,” according to the lawsuit.
The officers place Hill into the backseat of a patrol car when he again asks why he is being arrested and Yampolsky replies again, “We’ll let you know in a few here, okay?”
While Hill is being placed in the back of the patrol car, Ludwig tell him he “wanted to see if he was intoxicated” but never performs a sobriety test.
Cpl. Bart Stark arrived to the scene and took Hill out of the patrol vehicle and asked if he sustained any injuries. Hill replied by saying, “It is hard for me to determine if I have injuries, sir,” Stark’s body camera footage shows.
“So here’s the thing. If you say that you have injuries, I’m going to do something different, okay?” Stark said to Hill in his body camera footage. “But if you say that you don’t have any injuries, then that means nothing has happened, and I can let you drive away.”
Hill continued to tell Stark that he didn’t know if he was injured, or know where the injury was from the accident or offices six times, before ultimately being placed back into the back of the patrol vehicle.
After placing Hill in the back of the vehicle, Stark then approaches his fellow officers and asks what happens and mentions he is “recording everything.”
The officers decided to call a tow truck and impound his vehicle. Hill spent 24 hours in jail, according to the lawsuit.
Hill was charged with interference with policy activity but the charge was eventually dismissed because the Denver District Attorney’s Office stated “it would not be able to provide case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Two days after being released, Hill sought medical treatment at St. Joesphs Hospital where medical staff diagnosed him a closed head injury, cervical strain, strain of the thoracic region, right shoulder injury and paresthesia of his right upper limb.
“As disturbing as this case is, it is not unique,” the Rathod Mohamedbhai Law Firm, whose representing Hill said in a news release. “Rather than exercising restraint, Denver Police officers routinely respond with force and unlawful arrests, and then fabricate charges to cover up their illegal conduct.
“Mr. Hill files this lawsuit to seek justice for the violation of his constitutional rights, and to show Denver and the world that racial bias and retaliation for protected First Amendment expression are still routine practice in Denver and across the nation.”
A spokesman for the department declined to comment about the lawsuit, citing department policy regarding active legal cases.
Read the article in its entirety at denvergazette.com