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Man to receive $350,000 settlement for beating by Denver police during protest

Denver will pay $350,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a man who said he was tackled, punched and beaten in the genitals by Denver police officers unprovoked at a protest over the city’s clearing of a homeless encampment in July 2020. City Council Monday approved the payment during its regular meeting.

Michael “Mikey J.” Jacobs filed a suit in 2021, and a second version of his complaint against more than a dozen Denver police officers in March last year.

Jacobs went to a protest at Lincoln Park on July 29, 2020, related to the city clearing out an encampment. He told the Denver Gazette he decided to go because he had heard about accusations of police using force on others at the protest throughout the day, and wanted to show support.

The lawsuit claims he was beside a chain-link fence set up around the park when police officers threw him to the ground without any verbal commands. According to the case, Colorado State Patrol officers also at the scene had been ordered not to engage with people who tried to dismantle the fence.

Jacobs said he’s not positive whether police specifically targeted him, but he had used a bullhorn to rally protesters and said he encouraged people to protest legitimately. He said body-worn camera footage also captured an officer saying: “There he is, go get him!”

“Those are some facts that will always kind of swirl around in my head and make me wonder, why is this always an us-versus-them game?” Jacobs said. “Protesting is one of our fundamental rights, and it should be used to try and further society when people feel there are things wrong.”

The lawsuit claimed one officer punched Jacobs in the face several times, and another used a baton to ram Jacobs in the genital area. The case also accused other officers of not intervening or attempting to de-escalate the use of force.

The Denver Gazette reached out to the city attorney’s office for comment. As part of a request for summary judgment by 13 individual officers, they argue that since the force used by the two officers on Jacobs lasted seconds, they did not have a reasonable chance to see the actions and didn’t have an opportunity to intervene.

In a separate request by Officer Eric Leon, who Jacobs accused of punching him, Leon said several facts aren’t in dispute — including that he saw and felt Jacobs putting his hands on Leon’s pepper ball gun to disarm him. That’s a claim Jacob denies — that Jacobs tried to resist officers’ attempts to restrain him and that Jacobs couldn’t remember where his hands were.

“Based on the applicable case law cited in the motion, it is well established that when a suspect grabs an officer’s weapon or attempts to disarm him, that officer may respond with physical force,” Leon’s attorneys wrote.

In mid-February, Denver District Court Jude J. Eric Elliff denied the motions to dismiss. He wrote that video evidence doesn’t clearly show whether Jacobs tried to grab Leon’s pepper ball gun, a claim Jacobs has flatly denied.

“To begin, the main question before the Court is whether officer Leon’s use of force was “objectively reasonable. If ever there was a question for a jury determination, it is this one,” Elliff wrote in denying Leon’s motion.

“Next, officer Leon and some of the other police defendants testify that Plaintiff reached for officer Leon’s pepper-spray gun. … Since this issue impacts the reasonableness of officer Leon’s actions, it is material. And, of course, it is a fact that is hotly disputed.”

He wrote in his order denying the other officers’ summary judgment request that he wouldn’t grant it because body-worn camera footage reveals factual disputes in the case about whether the officers should have recognized the force used on Jacobs was excessive and intervened.

“Such a standard is wholly unsuited for a summary judgment motion. … All of the moving defendants were within easy earshot of Plaintiff, as his shouts can be plainly heard on every body worn camera video. Further, it appears that all of the moving defendants rushed Plaintiff, surrounded him, and then looked away during the takedown and arrest,” Elliff wrote.

Jacobs’ attorney, Felipe Bohnet-Gomez at the civil rights firm Rathod Mohamedbhai, said prosecutors eventually dropped a charge against Jacobs of attempting to disarm a police officer.

He said they agreed to settle because it is a sense of justice while avoiding more re-traumatization for Jacobs. Jacobs said having to re-watch video of the incident over and over during his deposition deeply disturbed him. He said he wanted to be a police officer when he was younger, but now suffers from panic attacks when he sees police.

Jacobs said he wants to continue to fight for the U.S. to have the best quality of life, the best justice system and the best democracy.

“I’m just really looking to use this raw energy that has been put inside of me and use it to just continue doing good, and try to make change as much as we can. Because I truly do believe in that world that I saw growing up.”

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