News & Politics

Denver Officer Fired After Video Shows Him Putting His Knee on Woman's Neck Until She Passes Out

Earlier in the night, James Medina reportedly punched the same woman in the face.

A Denver police officer has been fired after a video appears to show him pushing his knee into a woman’s throat, causing her to briefly pass out. James Medina, a 16-year veteran of the force, is currently appealing the loss of his job.

According to a report by the Denver Post, the incident stems from a July 10, 2014, call to Denver police about a “sick and intoxicated” man. A group of officers, including Medina, as well as local firefighters, were dispatched to the scene. Police claim that their efforts to place the man with a detox facility were hampered by Seryina Trujillo and her boyfriend, who were also on the scene. 

A disciplinary report states that Trujillo was handcuffed and led to a squad car. While in transit, she spit into the face of Denver officer Cheryl Smith. She also kicked Medina in the head, who responded – again, according to the report – by punching her in the face.

Trujillo was charged with assault on a police officer, interference and resisting arrest. After being arrested, she was put in a holding cell at the station. The full video of the incident, which includes audio shows Medina instructing Trujillo to remove her belt and shoes. Trujillo removes her belt, but a scuffle ensues.

Over the course of the recording, which goes one for about a minute, Medina can be heard telling Medina not to bite him. At one point, while holding Trujillo down on a bench, Medina’s knee appears to press into her neck, at which point she appears to pass out. Medina pulls off her shoes, after which, Trujillo’s limp body slides to the floor.

According to the disciplinary report, which the  Denver Post quotes, Medina used "inappropriate force when he engaged in a physical struggle" with Trujillo. The department has also stated that the officer should have requested the aid of a female officer. What’s more, after the incident, Medina did not seek the help of any medical personnel, did not report his use of force to his superiors, and "did not prepare a Use of Force Report."

Medina’s attorney, Donal Sisson, speaking to the Denver Post, said his client claims Trujillo didn’t actually pass out. “She was smiling or smirking at him," Sisson said. "A few seconds after [passing out], she pops up of her own free will."

That is also called “coming to.”

Medina has previously been the subject of nine disciplinary actions and 15 commendations.

The police department's Chief of Staff, Commander Matt Murphy, defended the decision to fire Medina. Speaking to the Denver Post, Murphy said, "His actions, taken as a whole, it's clearly inconsistent with our values and mission. He was disciplined accordingly."

Murphy added: "There was lots of alternatives, he had lots of choices. That is paramount in this decision."

To watch the video of the incident in its entirety, click here


Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

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