Attorney: Woman to receive $335,000 in suit against police
DENVER (AP) — A Colorado woman who accused a police sergeant of throwing her to the ground and stomping on her head outside the emergency room where her boyfriend was treated for a gunshot wound will receive $335,000 in a legal settlement, her attorney said Tuesday.
OyZhana Williams filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in September in Denver, accusing Aurora Police Sgt. Mike Hawkins of assault based on surveillance footage her attorneys obtained from the emergency room. The suit also accused Officers Jordan Odneal and Jose Ortiz of filing false reports that led to her arrest for assaulting an officer.
Williams was held in jail for eight days and worried she was facing years in prison until prosecutors dropped the charges more than ten months later, according to the lawsuit.
Adam Frank, one of Williams’ attorneys, said the surveillance video ultimately prevented his client from having to make “a horrific choice: go to trial and put her word up against the word of three police officers swearing to a consistent (though false) story, or plead guilty to something she did not do to avoid the threat of prison.”
Aurora City Attorney Mike Hyman said in a statement that the city admitted no liability as part of the settlement.
“This case was settled for the reason that many cases are settled - to avoid the cost of prolonged litigation,” Hyman said. “That cost would have far exceeded the value of the settlement.”
According to her attorneys, Williams took her boyfriend, Blake Newton, to the UCHealth emergency room east of Denver after he was shot early on Dec. 22, 2015. The police arrived there to investigate Newton’s shooting, the lawsuit said.
One of the officers — Sgt. Mike Hawkins — told Williams that he needed to search her car, then have it towed as part of the shooting investigation. She let him search the car without interference but later objected when Hawkins ordered her to give him her car keys, the lawsuit said.
The silent video released by Williams’ attorneys shows an officer, identified in the lawsuit as Hawkins, grabbing Williams who is trying to enter the backseat of a police car, pulling her out and struggling with her. Another officer then grabs Williams, helping Hawkins to take the woman to the ground. When two more police officers run over, Hawkins stands and appears to move his left leg up and down once.
Williams’ lawsuit said her head was driven into the pavement when she was tackled and Hawkins “stomped on Ms. Williams head while she was laying (sic) on the pavement.” The video doesn’t show this moment because one of the officers is kneeling on the ground in front of Williams’ head.
Based on the footage, the suit also accused Hawkins, Odneal and Ortiz of writing false or misleading reports to justify Williams’ arrest for assaulting an officer.
Aurora Police spokesman Sgt. Chris Neiman said Tuesday that Hawkins retired in January. The department announced that Hawkins was on an administrative assignment in September when the lawsuit was filed.
Neiman said the two other officers named in the lawsuit are still employed by the department. He would not discuss their assignments but said an investigation by the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau is continuing.