A lawsuit was filed Friday in Denver District Court against two Glendale police officers who shot and killed a man in a pickup in traffic on Colorado Boulevard.
The 23-page complaint and jury demand, filed on the behalf of the mother and estate of John Pacheaco Jr., names officers Neal McCormick and Chandler Phillips, claiming that McCormick lied when he stated that Pacheaco’s truck had hit him Oct. 31, 2020, the night of the shooting.
“Phillips also falsely claimed that he saw the Dodge strike Officer McCormick,” the lawsuit alleges. “The officers were dishonest in their statements to investigators regarding the shooting.”
Pacheaco had fallen asleep with the truck still running as traffic moved around it. McCormick and Phillips responded to the scene. When Pacheaco awoke, he drove forward, hitting a parked patrol car. The truck went into reverse as gunfire erupted.
A video clip, taken by a witness and posted on Twitter, was viewed by investigators with the Denver and Aurora police departments, and Denver district attorney’s office. The video “reflects several shots being fired at the approximate time that the truck reverses,” according to a police shooting decision letter on the incident, which cleared the officers of criminal charges in May.
An expert consulted by the DA’s office opined that the “use of force was reasonable and necessary” based on a perception that McCormick was in danger of being hit by the truck, which had been reported stolen, the decision letter said. Another expert opined that Pacheaco “was a potential danger to others should he (have been) allowed to escape the control of the officers.”
The lawsuit filed on Friday is based, in part, on Senate Bill 20-217, concerning measures to Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity, said Matthew Haltzman, an attorney representing Jamie Fowler, Pacheaco’s mother, and the decedent’s estate.
“Neither officer was in the path of the Dodge driven by Mr. Pacheaco when they began firing their weapons,” the lawsuit claims. “After Mr. Pacheaco was struck by Defendants’ bullets, one of which lacerated his spinal cord, his foot came down on the gas pedal and the Dodge began accelerating backward and struck the unoccupied and unmarked police vehicle behind him.
Haltzman, in a statement, said the officers’ gunfire was reckless, extreme and unjustifiable.
“Officers Phillips and McCormick’s reckless creation of any danger, followed by their unreasonable use of deadly force after such danger had vanished, coupled with inadequate training and supervision by the Glendale Police Department, ultimately led to and caused the Officers to violate the Department’s use of force training, as well as Mr. Pacheaco’s rights under the Fourth Amendment to (be) free from the unreasonable use of deadly force ultimately resulting in his murder,” Haltzman said. “The egregious and unjustifiable use of force by Officers Phillips and McCormick is symptomatic of a broader culture in law enforcement that tells officers to shoot first and ask questions later. The video evidence already available in this case shows that no officer was hit by or endangered by Mr. Pacheaco before 19 bullets were fired at him.”
The lawsuit seeks an “award of compensatory damages in an amount that includes, but is not limited to, medical and burial expenses; pain and suffering before death; (and) loss of earnings based upon the probable duration of Mr. Pacheaco’s life” had he not been killed.
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