AURORA | An Aurora man who sued several Aurora police officers for excessive force during a 2016 arrest has been awarded more than a quarter of a million dollars in a settlement agreement.
The City of Aurora agreed in October to pay Jaime Alberto Torres Soto and his attorneys $285,000 following a civil rights lawsuit filed in federal court in 2018, according to the Colorado branch of the American Cvil Liberties Union.
The group teamed with Denver law firm Kilmer, Lane and Newman, which has represented a slew of additional people who have had violent encounters with local police in recent years, to serve as Torres’ counsel.
“While the size of Mr. Torres’ settlement suggests the significance of the wrongdoing in this case, it does not begin to serve justice,” ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein said in a statement. “To this day, Mr. Torres suffers physically and emotionally from that incident, and radicalized police violence in Aurora has continued unabated.”
Torres, 32, suffered injuries to his eye, face, head, shoulder and back, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit stemmed from an altercation that occurred in a garage beside Torres’ Aurora home in the 1000 block of South Troy Street shortly after midnight Nov. 21, 2016. Police were originally called to the area after a neighbor called dispatchers to lodge a noise complaint, according to the court filing.
Officers ordered Torres out of the garage and detained him, twisting at least one of his arms behind his back. In body camera footage, Torres can be heard saying, “You’re spraining my arm,” in Spanish at least eight times before screaming in pain.
The complaint asserts officers then repeatedly slammed Torres’ head and body into the pavement.
“What happened to Mr. Torres is emblematic of what happens to people of color time and again in Aurora,” Attorney Mari Newman said in a statement. “… In order to address the Aurora PD’s epidemic of violence against communities of color we must continue to hold them accountable.”
Silverstein pointed to a bevy of other Black residents who died or suffered injuries after being detained by Aurora police in recent years, including David Baker, Elijah McClain and Brittney Gilliam. Baker died after he fought with several Aurora officers in December 2018, and McClain died after police detained him and paramedics sedated him in August 2019. Aurora police made national headlines earlier this summer when they incorrectly accused her of stealing a car and made her young children lay prone in a parking lot.
Aurora police announced a series of policy changes regarding use of force earlier this year and in October announced a multi-pronged plan focused on “restoring trust in the Aurora Police Department,” according to a news release.
City officials again pointed to the new plan when speaking about the recent settlement.
“The city has entered into a settlement agreement with Mr. Torres on this matter,” a city spokesperson wrote in an email. “As part of that agreement, the city did not admit liability in this case. This case was settled in part to avoid prolonged litigation, as many cases are. Regardless of any legal filings, the Aurora Police Department remains committed to ongoing reviews of its practices and procedures to offer the best service to our residents, and new Police Chief Vanessa Wilson has undertaken a plan to restore public trust in the department, called ‘A New Way.’”
The lawsuit filed two years ago referenced more than a dozen additional incidents dating back to 2003 during which Aurora officers allegedly used excessive force against black and Hispanic residents.
The city paid more than $6.5 million to settle claims lodged against Aurora police between 2010 and 2018, according to city documents presented to a council policy committee earlier this summer.
“It is customary in Aurora for officers to use excessive force against people of color and then charge them with bogus and trumped up offenses so as to conceal that fact that the officer used excessive force,” attorneys wrote in the original claim. “These charges are most often resisting arrest, obstruction, failure to obey a lawful order, or a combination thereof.”
Torres was charged with disturbing the peace, resisting arrest and failing to obey a lawful order. He was acquitted of the latter two charges in a jury trial, according to the complaint.
Aurora police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.