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"I always thought police were nothing but good and were there to protect people," testifies Elizabeth Polak, a registered nurse from Phoenix. Her view of the State's enforcement caste changed dramatically as a result of what she witnessed in Denver on the evening of March 25, 2008.
Polak, returning to her apartment following her daily jog, saw a man and a woman having an unremarkable conversation near the entrance to the building. Two police officers appeared – a development always pregnant with trouble – and approached the couple. From a distance of about 100 feet, Polak saw the officers stride purposefully toward the man, who was later identified as James Moore.
"The officers did not stop and have a conversation with Mr. Moore," she later recounted in a sworn affidavit. "The officers walked up to him and instantaneously punched Mr. Moore. Prior to being punched, there was no resistance or non-cooperation on his part. Mr. Moore was not given the chance to comply with any orders, if any were given. It appeared that the police were on a mission to walk up to Mr. Moore and punch him."
Shocked and terrified by the assault on Moore, his girlfriend, Julie Gomez, repeatedly exclaimed: "You have the wrong people!" Moore, who had been knocked to the ground, did what he could to avoid or deflect the blows directed at him by the assailants.
The attack on Moore "appeared to be completely unprovoked and at no time was Mr. Moore fighting back," Polak – who has never spoken with the victim – related in her affidavit. "At no time did Mr. Moore try to attack an officer. At no time did Mr. Moore try to reach for an officer's weapon. Mr. Moore was surprisingly calm."
"I did try to stay calm," Moore, a Special Forces combat veteran, recalled to Pro Libertate. "I just tried to assure myself that the beating would eventually stop, and I just had to endure it patiently. But it didn't stop."
The assailants, Officers Shawn Miller and John Robledo of the Denver Police Department, had been summoned to the apartment building by a noise complaint from a neighbor. Moore, who has been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, had experienced a somewhat tumultuous breakdown upon learning of a friend's death in Afghanistan. (After retiring from the military, Moore became an unabashed opponent of the Empire.) After deciding a change of scenery was in order, Moore and his girlfriend called a cab and went outside to wait. An hour later, the cops arrived.
"We were waiting outside the building, when I suddenly hear pounding and rushing footsteps then next thing you know Miller is in my face shouting, ‘Get your hands out of your pockets! Show me some ID!'" Moore told Pro Libertate. "I said, ‘Why? What’s going on?’ and I was almost simultaneously knocked to the ground before I could finish.” Once the beating began, Moore tried to identify himself and point out he was a disabled Vet but this availed him nothing.
Moore hit the ground hard – and went very still. Moore recalled that there was a sudden, brief pause in the assault after blood gushed from his face onto the sidewalk.
"It seems to me that they knew at that point they'd screwed up," he said. "It was as if, after a second or two, they decided to make it look as if I had been resisting arrest – which meant that they had to use a great deal of ‘necessary force' to subdue me." Robledo immediately hog-tied Moore, binding his wrists and ankles in a restraint device while Miller continued the assault. When Miller's hands grew weary and his knuckles became sore, he extracted a small club and began hitting the victim in the neck and head.
"I stood in terror watching the beating for about 7-10 minutes," Polak attested. The attack lasted long enough for the young woman to enter her apartment and get to a window.
During that time, the assailants seeking to sustain the fiction that they were subduing a dangerous, violent criminal called for “backup.” A thugscrum of about ten officers quickly congealed at the scene. As many as a half-dozen of them helped restrain the unresisting Moore, who was already hog-tied and remained conscious for roughly half of the amount of time described by Polak.
“Every time I tried to say something, they raised my leg higher into the air behind my back, causing my diaphragm to push into my lungs to shut off my air supply,” Moore pointed out. “I could not breathe out, much less breathe in.” Even though he was helpless, hog-tied, face-down on the concrete, and suffocating, the police continued to beat him unstintingly while chanting the familiar refrain of the rapist: “Stop resisting! Stop resisting!”
"From the windows inside the complex, I saw Mr. Moore lying lifeless in his own blood," Polak narrates. "Officers were still on top of him striking him with their fists. He was not moving and did not look like he was breathing. His face looked caved in."
Eventually one of the officers – obviously the brightest of a very dim lot – noticed that
Moore appeared to be dead, and began to administer CPR. An ambulance pulled up shortly thereafter and Moore's apparently lifeless body was taken to the hospital.
At one point, that body was literally lifeless, in a clinical sense: Moore "flatlined" on the sidewalk and had to be medically revived by the EMTs. Polak, looking at Moore from a distance with the eyes of an RN, couldn't tell if the victim had survived: "I called my mom and asked if she would call the police to inquire whether Mr. Moore was alive or dead."
It's doubtful that Denver's, ahem, Finest would have cared much about the fate of a mere Mundane like James Moore. The officer who led the unprovoked assault certainly wasn't troubled by what he had just done.
"After the ambulance left, a fireman used a fire hose to wash the blood off the sidewalk," Polak notes. I also noticed that the same officer that was beating him with the club was wiping Mr. Moore's blood off of his club."
That officer's name, once again, is Shawn Miller. Two days before he committed what was very nearly an act of aggravated homicide against James Moore,he and his partner severely beat a pedestrian named Jason Graber, leaving him with a broken knee and a permanent disability.
Concerned that Miller's reckless driving was putting pedestrians at risk, Graber gestured for the officer to slow down. This constituted the unforgivable offense called "contempt of cop" – and Graber was brutalized as an act of "street justice."
During a November 2010 incident in a secure apartment building, Miller cursed at, browbeat, threatened, battered, and abducted a disabled woman named Doreen Salazar because of her perceived tardiness in buzzing him and his partner into the residential area. Salazar, who had been advised by the apartment managers never to grant access to anyone she didn't know, and who had difficulty identifying the officers as police, paused for perhaps a second or two before letting them in. It's a tragedy that she didn't understand that police are the most dangerous variety of strangers she’s likely to confront.
Security camera video shows Miller snarling at the small, middle-aged woman, pushing her, and cornering her near an elevator. He then slammed her face-first into the elevator door, handcuffed her, and held her in his patrol car for about ten minutes – a sadistic act that served no purpose other than to terrorize an uppity Mundane who had failed to respect Miller's supposed authority.
"Did you learn your lesson?" a smirking Miller sneered at Salazar after releasing her from the handcuffs.
"Yes, I learned my lesson," Salazar – who is more of a man than little Shawn will ever be replied. "I learned not to open a door for a cop ever again."
While that is a sound and commendable policy, it's inadequate to deal with the threat posed by police officers to those citizens – like James Moore – who actually venture outside their homes on occasion.
Moore underwent a lengthy and expensive hospitalization that included back surgery. While recuperating from the nearly fatal beating, Moore had to deal with the expense, frustration, and stress resulting from the spurious charges filed against him by the thugs who had beaten him. In keeping with standard procedure in such matters, the victim of this unprovoked, and nearly fatal, attack was charged with Felony Assault on a Police Officer and Felony Disarming of a Police Officer. It took two years for the charges to be dismissed.
In March 2010, Moore filed a federal lawsuit against Miller, Robledo, and Denver's municipal government. During depositions last December, Miller and his boyfriends continued to peddle the fiction that they had subdued a violent, dangerous suspect.
"They're trying to make me look like Rambo – an unhinged Special Forces veteran who is a danger to the public," comments Moore. "Yes, I did serve in a Special Forces unit that saw combat in Afghanistan, but I was a computer nerd. I was never part of an assault team."
After returning to the United States in 2004, Moore suffered from combat-related psychological problems including post-traumatic stress disorder. In 2006, he sought help from the VA, and was turned down. Shortly thereafter, he attempted suicide.
By 2008, however, "I was healthy again, and looking forward to a better life. Julie and I planned to make a life together, but that ended the night that the cops attacked me." Julie, whose only involvement in the March 25, 2008 incident was to be a witness to the Denver PD’s gang assault on her boyfriend, was abducted by the police and slapped with several entirely contrived charges, including assault on an officer, resisting arrest, and “obstruction.” While in jail following her arrest, Julie was told that the police would have the couple evicted from their apartment and they made good on the threat.
Julie spent the next two years fighting the fraudulent and vindictive charges against her. Although James and Julie are still on cordial terms, the accumulated trauma of the evening and her subsequent incarceration ended the relationship.
"In his testimony, Miller said that ‘This was the worst fight I've ever been in. This guy must have been trained in martial arts,'" Moore reflects. "He also said that I was a threat because he couldn't see my hands and I was wearing a hoodie. Neither of those statements is true. I never had my hands in my pockets, and I was actually wearing a North Face jacket, not the notorious hoodie."
Between his medical bills and his legal expenses, Moore – who pulled in a salary north of $100,000 working in Silicon Valley before going to war – is destitute, living with his father in Oklahoma. He was able to gather sufficient funding to travel to southeast Asia in search of alternative therapies for his back injuries – treatment that cost a great deal less than conventional methods in the U.S. While the prospect of relocating to Asia was attractive, Moore points out, "I had to come back here and take care of business in court."
Last September, the Denver City Council approved a $225,000 taxpayer settlement with Jason Graber. U.S. District Judge John Kane, who had dismissed Graber's lawsuit last March, reversed his decision a few months later after it was demonstrated that the Denver PD and the municipal government had refused to turn over documents dealing with excessive force complaints – many of them filed against Shawn Miller, who remains on duty and has never faced disciplinary action of any kind.
Denver's police department is among the most notoriously abusive agencies of its kind in the Mountain West. Two years ago, in the context of growing public outrage over accumulating episodes of criminal assault by police, Chief Gerald Whitman told the local NBC affiliate that “the police department is under control” and that it actually receives fewer use-of-force complaints than departments in most other major cities.
Apparently the public is expected to confide in the Chief's uncorroborated assurances, because he is determined to preserve the institutional opacity of his department.
Last fall, Judge Kane issued an order demanding that the police department turn over all documents dealing with excessive force complaints over the previous eight years, including disciplinary records. Despite fines of $5,000 a day, and Kane's threat to dispatch U.S. Marshals to collect the files, the Denver PD and the ruling clique it serves have refused to comply.
"The people behind this are simply trying to wear me down," Moore observes. "They want to outlast me, and they have taxpayer money at their disposal, while I have next to nothing. They probably assume that I'll get desperate and they'll be able to settle for pennies on the dollar. I, on the other hand, am determined to be the guy who doesn't cash out – the one who holds out for real accountability, which means the exposure of all the corrupt and criminal things this department has done to innocent people."
"You know, before this happened I trusted the police," Moore concludes in an ironic echo of the witness who saw him beaten and left for dead on the sidewalk. His experience is just one illustration – albeit an uncommonly infuriating one – of the fact that no informed and rational person should ever make that mistake.
Reprinted with permission from Pro Libertate.