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Date of Interaction: March 2007
Police Employee Involved: Choice Johnson
Tahlia Hart-Costello was at Tracks nightclub in Denver in March 2007 with several friends when she noticed that she had lost her identification. She told 7NEWS that she ended up talking to Officer Choice Johnson who was working security — off-duty, but in his uniform — at the nightclub. She was told an under-age girl had tried to use her ID to try to enter the club and Johnson was investigating this.
Hart-Costello said she approached Johnson later when she and her friends were leaving and again asked for her ID back. At some point, she asked for the officer’s name and badge number. He gave her his name but refused to give her his badge number.
Johnson told Hart-Costello to “get the f*** out of my face” when she pressed him for his badge number, according to a complaint that a friend of Hart-Costello filed with the police department.
Hart-Costello told 7NEWS reporter Russell Haythorn that Johnson then punched her in the face. As she stumbled back, she broke the heel on her shoe. She says she momentarily ‘blacked out’ from the punch and ‘came to’ with her face on the ground and one arm behind her back.
Seven months later, Johnson was accused of slamming a woman into the wall and floor of a nightclub where he was working off-duty, cutting her eye. According to her complaint, Johnson wiped her blood away with her own shirt and poured water over the wound.
Johnson was reprimanded for failing to report use of force causing injury and for arresting the woman for resisting/interfering with a police officer without getting a supervisor’s approval.
According to yet another court document, Johnson is accused of shoving a man into a wall at Denver’s Paramount Theater. Again, in that case, Johnson is moonlighting, off-duty but in uniform.
In the latest complaint filed against Officer Johnson, he admitted shoving a man backwards down concrete stairs at 1UP Bar in LoDo last July. The man had been urging Johnson to release his brother, who had had too much to drink at his bachelor party and fallen asleep at the bar. The officer had handcuffed the brother and was having him transported to a detox center.
Johnson told internal affairs investigators the man trying to get his brother released had taken a fighting posture. The officer said he “thrust” his hands into the man’s chest to knock him off balance, so he could arrest him.
But a disciplinary report said a surveillance video showed Johnson aggressively rushing at the man, who was “simply standing there with his hands in his pockets,” and shoving him down the stairs.
“[The man] makes no threatening gestures or movements toward Officer Johnson … The video does not support Officer Johnson’s claim that (the man) ‘pushed his chest out in a defensive manner,'” the disciplinary report stated.
Deputy Director of Safety Jess Vigil found that Officer Johnson, an 11-year veteran, violated department rules by using inappropriate force. Johnson has been suspended without pay for 30 days, as a result.
In Hart-Castello’s case, she says surveillance video from the nightclub mysteriously disappeared when her attorney’s requested it back in 2007.