Denver, CO

Denver likely to pay photographer $350,000 to settle police lawsuit

David Heitz
The George Floyd protests in downtown Denver.Colin Lloyd/Unsplash

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misidentified Trevor Hughes as working for USA Today. The Trevor Hughes in the settlement is an independent photographer, not a newspaper reporter. NewsBreak regrets the error.

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) The Denver City Council likely will approve Monday paying a photographer $350,000 to settle a claim against the Denver Police Department.

The latest payout stemming from the George Floyd protests of 2020 in downtown Denver goes to Trevor Hughes, who sued the city in federal court. Hughes told KDVR Problem Solvers last year that a projectile struck his ring finger as he was taking pictures of the protest. “I looked down at my hand and saw my finger and immediately just thought, ‘Oh my God. They’re going to have to amputate this thing,'” he said. “Blood spurting out, like you see in the movies.”

Hughes suffered a broken finger and said he went into shock. “There was a mark on my finger – a good sized mark – it was like a perfect circle that left a mark there,” he said.

Hughes’ lawsuit, case No. 2021CV32776 filed in U.S. District Court, also names former Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen, Jefferson County, the cities of Golden and Arvada and John Doe.

The City Council generally approves settlement agreements without public discussion.

City paying out millions in settlements

The city has paid out millions in settlements related to the downtown protests and other public safety missteps. The council paid out $128,000 in August, $140,000 in July, and $325,000 in June in police department settlements.

In August, the council paid $128,000 to two people police arrested for using foul language. Three weeks prior, the council approved $80,000 in police settlements at one meeting. In July, the council approved a $100,000 settlement with a man police called a “turd” during arrest. That same week, the council settled a jail abuse case against the Denver Sheriff’s Department for $40,000.

In June, the council paid $325,000 to settle claims against the police department. Prior to that, it had settled more than $2.3 million in lawsuits against the police department earlier this year.

More cases may be pending

In January, Jacqlin Davis, public information officer for the City Attorney's office, said 12 protest-related lawsuits remained unsettled. Several have multiple plaintiffs.

Although it is not a city-sponsored group, the aftermath of the George Floyd protests gave birth to the Task Force for Reimagining Policing and Public Safety. The task force recommended Denver Police make 112 changes to how they do business.

The task force claims it is the largest and most diverse public safety initiative in the U.S. Members include representatives of civil rights organizations, community activists, direct service providers, faith-based organizations, policy advocacy organizations, and youth-serving organizations.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at local newspapers in Los Angeles, Detroit, and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am living proof that people can rebound from mental illness with proper treatment, even after experiencing homelessness. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living here.

Denver, CO

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