AURORA | A suspected pickpocket is suing Aurora police after he says officers switched off their body cameras during an arrest and zapped him with a Taser while he was hogtied.
Jeffrey Gale, 49, of Denver, filed a lawsuit in federal court last week accusing several Aurora officers of using excessive force when they arrested him after he snatched a man’s wallet and medicine outside an Aurora pharmacy in June 2015.
In the lawsuit, filed in federal court June 28, Gale’s lawyer, Cheryl Trine of Loveland, said the seven officers either destroyed the video camera footage of the arrest or didn’t have their cameras turned on during it.
Just a small portion of the arrest, which came while Gale was hogtied, was caught on one officer’s body camera, Trine wrote. During that segment, Trine said Gale can be heard crying out in pain and an officer tells him to be quiet or “this is going to get really ugly for you.”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for Gale, who says he was injured during the arrest.
A spokeswoman for Aurora police said the department couldn’t comment on pending litigation.
The department’s directives on the use of body cameras — which not all officers are equipped with — says that officers wearing one of the devices “shall activate the camera’s recording capabilities as soon as practical” when they confront a citizen, and then upload the video to the department’s database within 72 hours.
According to the lawsuit, on June 29, 2015, Gale stole a wallet containing $36 and some medication from a man in a parking lot pharmacy and tried to run away. Gale dropped the wallet when a bystander chased him and police eventually spotted Gale near East Colorado Avenue and South Havana Street.
Gale walked into a field where two Aurora officers stopped him.
In the lawsuit, Gale’s lawyer says he knelt down and put his hands in the air in an effort to surrender.
“The field was full of tall grass, and Mr. Gale felt afraid that no one would be able to see him in the tall grass should the officers shoot him,” the lawsuit says.
At the time of the arrest, Gale was 49 and of “small stature,” the lawsuit says, saying he weighed about 150 pounds and stood 5 feet, 7 inches tall.
“He was unarmed and not posing any immediate threat,” the lawsuit says.
The officers cuffed Gale and pushed him to the ground, the suit says, and kicked him in the neck and back. Other officers arrived on scene and hogtied Gale before another officer Tasered him several times, the lawsuit says.