AURORA | The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Monday against the City of Aurora on behalf of a disabled black man who says police roughed him up during a 2015 arrest.
Dwight Crews, 60, was arrested in November 2015 at his home in Aurora after his stepdaughter’s husband called police and said Crews assaulted him.
According to the lawsuit, when Crews, who is disabled because injuries sustained in a car accident, stepped outside of his home two Aurora police officers, Steven Gerdjikian and Ryan Marker, threw him to the ground.
“The Constitution forbids police from intruding into the privacy of a person’s home unless they have a warrant issued by a judge,” ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.
Silverstein said the officers didn’t have a warrant, and Crews, who they say was calm and cooperative, posed no threat to them.
“Nevertheless, Aurora police arrested him inside his home, aggressively and violently threw him to the ground, restrained him, searched him, and presented him with a trumped-up, groundless charge of resisting arrest,” Silverstein said.
Aurora police said in a statement Monday that Crews never filed a complaint regarding the incident. They said a supervisor reviewed the officers’ use of force and “the officers were found to have acted appropriately.”
Because of the pending litigation the department said they could not comment further.
The ACLU said Crews was charged with assault for the incident with his stepdaughter’s husband, but a jury later found him not guilty. Crews was also charged with resisting arrest but a judge threw that charge out, the ACLU said.
One of the officers was wearing a body camera at the time of the arrest and video from the incident shows the officers telling Crews not to resist and warning him that they will take him to the ground if he resists. The video shows Crews coming to the front door minutes after police kept knocking on the door and telling him to come out. The officers appear to be ignored by Crews inside but then answers after several minutes of urging. The officer’s body camera does not make entirely clear what happened after they compelled Crews to come outside, and an arrest begins.
Crews wasn’t hospitalized after the arrest, but Silverstein said he was injured when the officers threw him to the ground.
The case is one of several the ACLU has brought against Aurora police in recent years.
“This case adds to a disturbing string of incidents in which Aurora police have abused and violated the Constitutional rights of people of color,” said Silverstein. “Until Aurora improves police transparency and accountability, the victims have no choice but to seek justice in the courts.”
Earlier this year the city paid $110,000 to settle an ACLU case involving Darsean Kelley, a young black man who was tased in the back as he said, “I know my rights.”
The organization also sued police in September on behalf of Omar Hassan, a black man who they say was kicked out of a restaurant by two officers after the police told him “your kind of business is not welcome here.”
Silverstein said the city needs an independent citizen oversight board to review cases like this. While Denver and other cities have one he said there hasn’t been any indication Aurora plans to create one.