Jury acquits Denver sergeant of assaulting teen during chase

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FILE – In this file 2018 booking photo provided by the Denver Police Department, Denver Police Sgt. Joseph Rodarte is shown. Closing arguments were scheduled Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019 in Rodarte’s trial on second-degree assault charges for allegedly beating a 17-year-old with a metal baton, breaking the teen’s nose and one of his legs in 2018. (Denver Police Department via AP, File)

DENVER | A jury on Wednesday acquitted a Denver police officer accused of beating an unarmed 17-year-old with a metal baton, breaking the teen’s nose and one of his ankles.

Sgt. Joseph Rodarte was found not guilty of two counts of second-degree assault stemming from the August 2018 incident, The Denver Post reported .

Officers responding to a complaint about a person yelling obscenities near a southwest Denver park found the teen, and Rodarte struck the suspect six times as he ran away, according to court records and body camera footage.

Defense attorney Chad Williams argued at trial that Rodarte used reasonable force and that the teen repeatedly resisted arrest, threatened officers and tried to escape. He also said the teen’s own weight caused his ankle to break as officers brought him to his feet.

The teen later told police he was high on LSD that day and thought the officers were demons.

Rodarte, who was suspended without pay following the incident, has been the subject of 20 use-of-force complaints during his 20 years at the Denver Police Department, though internal affairs cleared him of wrongdoing in all but one.

In 2017, he was suspended for violating a use-of-force policy by approving an officer’s use of a stun gun against a non-threatening suspect. He also was suspended that year for using a crime database for personal reasons.

Carolyn Tyler, a spokeswoman for the Denver District Attorney’s Office, said prosecutors are “obviously disappointed” with Wednesday’s verdict, but they respect the jury’s decision.

Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com