AURORA, Colo. — A federal civil rights lawsuit was filed Thursday against the City of Aurora and a former Aurora Police Department officer accused of assaulting a woman with a disability while she was walking her dog earlier this year.
Officer Douglas Harroun is also facing assault charges in connection with the incident, which happened Jan. 11.
> The video above aired Jan. 12.
“There has been no end to the repercussions I have suffered from this incident,” Wyoma Martinez, the victim, wrote in a statement. “This man assaulted me for simply walking my dog too slow.”
A car crash caused Martinez to develop a condition that caused pain on her entire left side and made it difficult to walk. She was walking her dog in the street to avoid slick ice and snow on the sidewalk, the lawsuit says. Harroun wanted her to move faster. When she didn’t, the lawsuit said, he nearly hit her with his car, yelled at her and assaulted her.
Martinez had almost recovered from the crash, but the assault has caused added pain and flare-ups, according to the lawsuit.
“I am now navigating the multiple physical and emotional effects of this event during what was supposed to be a year of hope for me and which has now turned into a nightmare,” Martinez wrote. “These are the people that are supposed to protect us, yet I am now faced with living life with memory loss and so much more.”
Harroun flashed his badge after he assaulted Martinez and told bystanders that he was a police officer making an arrest, according to the lawsuit.
“Even after releasing Ms. Martinez, Mr.Harroun made clear—pursuant to his authority as a police officer with APD—that she was not free to leave, that she was ‘going to jail,’ and that she was being detained until other officers arrived,” Zach Warren, an attorney for Martinez, wrote in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit is in addition to the criminal charges that Harroun faces, which include third-degree assault against an at-risk adult – a class 5 felony.
The Aurora Police Department said that at the time of the alleged crime, Harroun was on paid administrative leave after shooting and injuring a man while responding to a domestic violence incident Dec. 31.
Harroun resigned from APD in January.
An attorney for Harroun did not immediately return a request for comment.
The City of Aurora did not do enough to prevent the attack, according to the lawsuit.
“Aurora’s decision to hire and retain Defendant Harroun provided him with the opportunity to use his authority as a police officer to violate the constitutional rights of others, and his propensity to misuse a weapon was reasonably foreseeable before Aurora hired him and during the course of his employment,” the lawsuit says.
Representatives for APD and the City of Aurora said they could not comment because they have not been served with the lawsuit.
“Aurora’s longstanding, widespread, and deliberately indifferent custom, habit, practice, and/or policy of condoning and ratifying the use of excessive force, particularly against people of color and individuals with disabilities, caused Defendant Harroun to use unlawful excessive force against the Plaintiff,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit pointed to 17 examples as evidence of systemic problems, including:
- Black children being handcuffed and held at gunpoint in August 2021
- An APD officer who parked on the property of a local doctor and pointed a gun at him when challenged
- The killing of Elijah McClain from ketamine ejection and “forcible arrest"
“Aurora’s past ratification and toleration of similar illegal conduct thus caused and was the moving force behind Defendant Harroun’s use of excessive force against the Plaintiff,” the lawsuit says.
In 2021, the Colorado attorney general’s office found a "pattern and practice" of racially biased policing and use of excessive force by Aurora police. The police department is currently under a consent decree designed to help improve the agency.
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Read the full lawsuit here:
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