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Protesters take Denver Police to trial over excessive force claims

Twelve plaintiffs claim Denver police officers violated their First Amendment rights by shooting them with less-than-lethal rounds.

DENVER — In a trial that could last up to three weeks, the city’s police department finds itself on the defense in federal court. The country’s first trial related to the protests after the murder of George Floyd began Monday.

Nearly two years after thousands of protesters descended on the Colorado Capitol, attorneys for the protesters and a city attorney representing Denver police began day one of the trial with opening arguments.

“All of our clients protested peacefully,” attorney Tim Macdonald told the jury in a federal courtroom in downtown Denver. “Denver law enforcement responded to the protests with an overwhelming and unconstitutional use of force.”

“The downtown community experienced unprecedented violence and destruction,” city attorney Lindsay Jordan told the jury while displaying images of vandalized businesses. “This violence and destruction placed police in uncharted territory.”

The protesters allege police deployed numerous less-than-lethal weapons against them, including pepper balls, tear gas, chemical sprays and 40 mm rounds, while they were protesting peacefully. 

Zach Packard is one of the plaintiffs who claims he was shot in the head with a beanbag round shot from a 12-gauge shotgun, causing a skull fracture. 

Images of plaintiff injuries were displayed before the jury while the city showed images of broken business windows and photographs of the Capitol building vandalized. 

Several law enforcement experts are expected to testify at trial, with a focus on police leadership and supervision of officers during the conflict that spanned several days in downtown Denver. 

If you have any information about this story or would like to send a tip, you can email jeremy@9news.com.

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