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'That's what you get for eluding': Federal lawsuit alleges Denver officer beat man in his own backyard

The lawsuit alleges a Denver officer tased and beat a man in his own backyard after he drove away during a traffic stop.
Credit: Courtesy US Federal Court Documents
A photo of Justin Lecheminant after he was allegedly beat by Denver Police was featured in a lawsuit he filed in federal court on May 5, 2020.

DENVER — WARNING: This story contains graphic images that some may find disturbing.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court alleges that a Denver Police officer beat a man in his own backyard after he admitted to driving away from law enforcement during a traffic stop on New Year’s Eve 2019.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Denver man Justin Lecheminant, also alleges that the department failed to properly investigate the use of force incident.

"At this point, it would not be appropriate to comment on pending litigation," Denver Police Department spokesperson Jay Casillas wrote in an email to 9NEWS. 

During the incident, Lecheminant suffered a broken nose, punctured eardrum, multiple broken ribs and a serious concussion, the lawsuit alleges.

The City and County of Denver, DPD Det. Mark Duran, Sgt. Troy Sandoval, Sgt. Brian Pacelko, Cpl. Daniel Felkins, and Officer Robert Blanc are named as defendants in the lawsuit, which asks that Lecheminant receive relief for his medical bills and the emotional and financial damage he said he sustained. 

According to the lawsuit, Felkins pulled over Lecheminant in the area of West 25th Avenue and Federal Boulevard on Jan. 1, 2019 for having his headlights off in what was described as a “well lit, residential neighborhood.” The lawsuit says Lecheminant gave the officer his driver’s license but drove away at “5 mph.”

Felkins followed Lecheminant to his home, which was only a few blocks from where he was pulled over.

According to the lawsuit, Lecheminant parked behind his home, and tried to walk into his backyard with a bottle of tequila in his hands.

“Defendant Felkins attempted to grab Mr. Lecheminant’s arm,” the lawsuit says. “Mr. Lecheminant dodged Defendant Felkins, and in the process, dropped the tequila bottle.

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“As he was making his way into his gated and fenced-in backyard, Mr. Lecheminant was repeatedly yelling ‘I’m on private property! I’m on private property!’”

According to the lawsuit, Officer Blanc arrived at the property shortly thereafter to assist Felkins.

“Instead of taking any steps to deescalate the situation or even assess the situation, immediately upon arrival Defendant Blanc began to escalate the situation by repeatedly threatening Mr. Lecheminant by saying, ‘Dude, you’re gonna get tased! You’re gonna get tased!’” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit says Lecheminant told the officers “get off my property,” but Blanc followed him into the backyard and threatened to tase him.

“While simultaneously yelling, ‘Get on the ground or you’re gonna get tased’ Defendant Blanc deployed his taser, which brought Mr. Lecheminant to his knees in the snow,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit says that Lecheminant was tased again shortly thereafter. 

“Upon being tased a second time, Mr. Lecheminant’s immediate and involuntary reaction was to attempt to pull the taser prongs out of his chest,” the lawsuit says. “Defendant Blanc then yelled, ‘Get on the ground face first’ while sprinting at Mr. Lecheminant and kicking him repeatedly in the face.”

According to the lawsuit, Blanc knocked Lecheminant on his back and then got on top of him and “violently beat him in the face with closed fists.”

The lawsuit claims that Felkins did not intervene until he reached an arm on Blanc’s shoulder.

“Throughout the beating, Mr. Lecheminant can be heard yelling ‘Help! Help! Help!’ over and over again,” the lawsuit says.

“As Mr. Lecheminant lay in the snow with broken bones to his face, a punctured ear drum, broken ribs, a concussion and other serious bodily injuries, Defendant Blanc yelled at him, ‘That’s what you get for eluding!’ as he threw down his taser,” the lawsuit goes on to say.

Credit: Courtesy US Federal Court Documents
A photo of Justin Lecheminant after an alleged police beating taken from the US Federal Court lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, the officers called an ambulance as well as two supervisors, who were supposed to review the use of force incident. Those supervisors were identified as Sgt. Sandoval and Sgt. Pacelko. The lawsuit claims they attempted to interview Lecheminant even after he invoked his right to an attorney, and that they failed to speak to Blanc and Felkins while their body cameras were on.

The lawsuit alleges DPD did not follow up to obtain Lecheminant’s medical records, and that officers did not document blood found at the scene. It says police did take a photo of Blanc’s hand, where the officer said Lecheminant cut him.

“There was no testing done at the scene, or anytime thereafter, to confirm whether the blood on Defendant Blanc’s hand was actually Defendant Blanc’s blood and not Mr. Lecheminant’s blood,” the lawsuit says.

Det. Duran was the lead investigator in the use of force incident, and the lawsuit said he cleared both officers without putting them on leave.

Lecheminant was charged with four counts of second-degree assault on a peace officer, but those were later dropped by the Denver District Attorney’s Office. The lawsuit says he lost his job as the result of the allegations against him. 

Lecheminant did plead guilty to one count of obstruction and one count of eluding for the traffic stop at 25th and Federal, according to the lawsuit.               

The civil lawsuit has been assigned to Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter, according to court records. Parties involved are scheduled to appear in court on July 23.

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