Aurora police officer who pointed gun at doctor’s head suspended 1 week without pay

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AURORA | An Aurora police officer who pointed a gun at a local doctor’s head during a line of questioning in March has been suspended for a week and will have to undergo further training.

Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson on Tuesday suspended Officer Justin Henderson for 40 hours without pay and mandated he attend de-escalation training, a spokesperson for the Aurora Police Department confirmed.

The discipline was in response to an encounter between Henderson and Dr. P.J. Parmar outside of a location of Mango House, a Colfax resource center for local refugees, on March 1.

In a cellphone video, Henderson can be seen asking Parmar, who is seated in the driver’s seat of his car, to prove that he owns the nearby building. Parmar has owned the building, the adjoining parking structure and their umbrella LLC, Mango House, for several years. He owns and runs another medical clinic across the street.

While questioning Parmar, Henderson holds what appears to be a pistol mounted with a flashlight in front of Parmar’s driver’s side window, which is rolled down.

“(The officer) approached me, pointed his gun point blank at my head, and repeatedly demanded for me to prove that it is my property,” Parmar, whose parents emigrated from India, wrote in a Medium post published shortly after the encounter. “As if a dark skin person doesn’t own commercial buildings in the ‘hood, or tend to them on Sunday evening.”

Parmar was born in Canada and raised in Chicago. He was never cited for a crime after the interaction with officers.

Parmar said Wilson’s punishment is inadequate.

“It’s not enough,” he wrote in an email. “That would never fly in the business world — I’ve terminated employees for less. The police pretty much have free rein to do whatever they want.”

Parmar’s attorney, David Lane, has indicated he plans to file a federal lawsuit against the city claiming that Henderson used excessive force during his interaction with Parmar. The suit has yet to be formally filed.

In June, Lane said existing case law stipulates that drawing a gun on a resident constitutes use of force.

“That force may only be used if the officer is in reasonable fear for his or her life,” Lane wrote in an email. “Dr. Parmar was merely loading boxes into his vehicle on his own property when an Aurora officer approached him with a drawn gun.”

While Aurora police are required to notify supervisors when they intentionally point a gun or other projectile launcher at a person, officials do not consider such an action a use of force, per department rules and directives.

Henderson was found to have failed to comply with a departmental policy, though a spokesperson was unclear which specific rule was violated.

“He wouldn’t have gotten suspension if he didn’t violate some type of policy,”  Officer Matt Longshore, spokesman for the local police department, said.

A request for records outlining the findings sustained against Henderson is pending.

Henderson is currently assigned to a detective bureau and started working with the department in June 2017.

Last year, Adams County District Attorney Dave Young determined Henderson was justified when he shot and killed a 22-year-old man who approached officers while wielding a machete in a north Aurora apartment on March 4, 2019.

Calls to oust Henderson from the force have become semi-regular refrains at recent local protests, including one held outside of Parmar’s medical clinic on June 6. A change.org petition calling to fire Henderson had garnered nearly 2,200 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon. The petition references both the shooting death of Shamikle Jackson last March and the March incident involving Parmar.

Henderson’s suspension will not have to be contiguous, Longshore said. He will be able to choose which days he will not work and not receive pay.