A lawsuit against the city of Arvada claims that the city was involved in “covering up” what the plaintiff deems a pattern of excessive force by the officer who allegedly assaulted him.
In a federal lawsuit filed on Monday, Travis Cook, age unknown, writes that on Feb. 11, 2018, he was involved in an argument with his then-girlfriend in her parents’ basement. Her father called the police and when three officers arrived, they arrested Cook. A jury subsequently acquitted him of assault charges.
Cook alleges that Officer Brandon Valdez was not paying attention while interviewing Cook at the scene. When Cook tried to walk away, he wrote that Valdez attempted to escalate the situation. After another person de-escalated the encounter, Cook then sat in a living room chair.
When, he writes, the three officers decided to arrest him, they gave him contradictory instructions. Cook alleges that Valdez used the situation as a pretext to decide Cook was being non-compliant, whereupon Valdez and Officers Scott Thomas and Ryan Clark went “hands on."
Cook alleged that Valdez punched him in the face and Thomas used a Taser on him. “When Defendant Valdez was done, Mr. Cook was almost unrecognizable,” the lawsuit describes. It goes on to state that the father of Cook’s then-girlfriend — who was not “predisposed to testify favorably for Mr. Cook” — said that Cook did not strike the officers.
Cook’s subsequent trial acquitted him of assaulting the officers, and his only conviction was for obstructing a peace officer.
Cook provided a link to a video of the encounter, which he says his mother began to film. An officer who appears to be Valdez rushes to the mother after she asked why he was punching her son in the face.
“I need you to back up,” Valdez barked. “He elbowed me in my chin.” Valdez ordered her out of the room and she audibly disputed his account. The footage captured Cook’s bloodied face.
Arvada police officers do not use body-worn cameras.
A spokesperson for the department said in a statement that "Mr. Cook, who, at the time of his arrest was 6’2” and 245 pounds, was involved in a physical altercation with his girlfriend prior to officers’ arrival on the scene. Following their investigation, officers determined there was probable cause to arrest Mr. Cook for felony assault."
The statement further said that Cook resisted arrest, "so officers were required to use force to protect the alleged victim and to take Mr. Cook into custody....Mr. Cook’s actions also resulted in a violation of his probation in an earlier vehicular assault case."
Cook further accuses a police commander of falsifying a report of the incident. A subsequent Internal Affairs report, he says, contained the erroneous account. He accuses Valdez of having multiple use of force complaints against him, and that the city “has never once” found fault with Valdez.
The city, according to Cook, put Valdez back on duty too soon after another fatal shooting, “despite knowing how this was affecting” Valdez.
“Arvada’s inadequate training, supervision, and/or discipline of its employees was a deliberate choice which resulted in the unconstitutional use of excessive force against Mr. Cook,” he wrote.
The case is Travis Cook v. City of Arvada, et al.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from the Arvada Police Department.