Crime

Elderly Blind Man Wins $400,000 In Excessive Force Case Against Denver Police Officers

| by Kathryn Schroeder
Philip WhitePhilip White

On Oct. 29, an 80-year-old blind man was awarded $400,000 by a federal jury in his excessive force case against two Denver, Colorado, police officers.

In May 2012, Philip White, who is blind, had his head slammed into a counter by Officer Kyllion Chafin, the Denver Post reports. He was 77 years old at the time of the incident.

The incident occurred after White was unable to board a bus for Vail, Colorado, because it was full. He was then waiting in the Greyhound bus station for the next one, as he was told to do by a Greyhound employee. 

A security guard, however, told White he was trespassing and called police, without informing him that they were on their way, according to court documents cited by the Denver Post.

White reportedly asked to see Chafin’s badge when he arrived at the station.

"He says how are you going to look at my badge if you're blind?" White said, according to 9 News. "I said I just want to touch your badge. He said you're not touching me."

Chafin then pulled White’s arms behind his back and threw his head onto the counter, causing it to bleed.

"Instead of saying, sir, what seems to be the problem? Or, sir, how can I help you? They came in ready to rumble," Mari Newman, White's attorney, said.

White was reportedly not read his Miranda rights before being cuffed or when Chafin’s supervisor, Sgt. Robert Wyckoff, began to record an interview.

"The sergeant persisted in secretly interrogating him and demeaning him," Newman said. "That's not right. Now he's been promoted."

Wyckoff is now a Lieutenant in the department.

White was taken to jail and released eight hours later. The District Attorney dropped the charges of trespassing and resisting arrest against him.

The Denver Police Department determined that the officers acted as they should have, given department policies.

"We believe in the judicial process and respect the jury's decision," the Denver Police Department said in a statement. "The Department of Safety and the Denver Office of the Independent Monitor took part in reviewing the incident, and the Denver Police Department found that the officers' actions fell within department policies. We are always looking for ways to improve."

"The fact that Denver persists in saying they did nothing wrong is nothing short of terrifying," Newman said.

Both Wyckoff and Chafin are reportedly still employed by the police department.

White’s case against the officers resulted in him being awarded $100,000 in compensatory damages and $300,000 in punitive damages on Oct. 29, The Denver Post reports.

"We are very gratified that the jury recognized that Denver police Officer Chafin engaged in excessive force," Darold Killmer, another one of White's attorneys, said after the verdict. "The police officer's aggressive, bullying response was inexcusable. He bloodied and brutalized an elderly disabled man who never in his 77 years had any run-ins with police."

Sources: The Denver Post, 9 News / Photo Source: KUSA via 9 News, Brian Turner/Flickr