A Denver police officer, who lost his job in light of video footage revealing that he had used excessive force on a female suspect in a holding cell, may be able to get his job back.
Civil service hearing officer Terry Tomsick ruled Wednesday that former Denver Patrolman James Medina should serve a 60-day suspension followed by two years of probation. Medina was fired in March when it was found that he had pinned a woman down driving his knee into the woman’s neck, leaving her limp.
The incident that led to Medina’s termination occurred on July 10th, 2014. Medina and other officers had been called to a fast-food restaurant to assist in placing an intoxicated man in custody of a rehabilitation facility. A woman, identified as Seryina Trujillo, and her boyfriend were interfering with the situation, according to the disciplinary report. Trujillo was eventually handcuffed and taken to a patrol vehicle, where she reportedly had kicked Medina in the face and Medina had punched her in the face in response.
Trujillo was taken into custody and brought to a holding cell, where she was told by Medina to remove her belt and shoes. Video footage taken from the holding cell showed that Trujillo was arguing with Medina and reluctant in removing the items. A struggle ensued and Medina was heard ordering Trujillo not to bite him, and then the officer was seen pinning Trujillo’s neck down with his knee while removing her belt and shoes. The video of the incident can be seen below:
It was found that Medina had violated five department policies including the use of inappropriate force and failure to report use of force in a timely manner. At the time of the incident Medina failed to seek medical attention for Trujillo. Five days passed before Medina filed a report about the struggle in the holding cell, and he did not include information about pinning Trujillo down. Medina did not seek assistance from other officers to gain control of the situation, and the disciplinary report noted that Medina should have requested a female officer to remove Trujillo’s belt and shoes.
Medina’s attorney, Donald Sisson, argued that Trujillo never fell unconscious. “She was smiling or smirking at him,” Sisson said. “A few seconds after she pops up of her own free will.”
Court records showed that Trujillo later pleaded guilty to third-degree assault.
In deciding discipline for Medina, Police Commander Michael Battista had recommended two 30-day suspensions and two years of probation on behalf of Police Chief Robert White. Medina had not been notified that termination was a possibility, according to the Denver Post. While Tomsick agreed that Medina violated several department policies, he said that the city of Denver made an error when the Department of Public Safety’s deputy director, Jess Vigil, chose to fire Medina without warning.
Tomsick’s ruling does not mean that Medina is guaranteed to regain his badge. Daelene Mix, a department spokeswoman, said that the Department of Public Safety will appeal Tomsick’s decision and the issue is yet to be resolved. Over the course of Medina’s career at the Denver Police Department, he has been the recipient of 15 commendations and nine prior disciplinary actions.