Denver Man Screams for Help For More Than 20 Minutes

I live in a busy neighborhood on the edge of downtown Denver. There's a fire station, a hospital, the Denver jail, Denver courthouse, detox centers and sometimes homeless camps and mentally challenged individuals wandering around all within a few blocks. At night, you can hear ambulances, fire trucks and police sirens every half hour or so. It's like living in the Don Henley song, "New York Minute":

Lying here in the darkness
Hear the sirens wail
Somebody going to emergency
Somebody's going to jail

I wouldn't have it any other way, it's life in the city. Where else could I see the mountains and Denver's skyline, the Convention Center, Elitch's "space needle", the Pepsi Center (now called the Ball Arena) and the Bronco's football stadium (now called Empower Field at Mile High) all from my rooftop? Or be across the street from a Starbucks on one side, a major grocery store on another and the city jail and courthouse on a third side?

But Monday night was different. Around 10:15 I started hearing a man yelling. Since that's pretty common in this neighborhood, I didn't get up from my computer to go take a look. But then he started yelling louder and then I heard him yell for help. I went out on my balcony and saw a few policeman holding someone down as he screamed "Help Me" (and later, "Please don't kill me" and "I didn't do nothing"). [More...]

Naturally, I grabbed my phone and started filming. This man did not stop screaming for help, sounding like he was in agonizing pain and going to die, for over 20 minutes. Many more police cars arrived with their sirens wailing. The police blocked off two pretty major thoroughfares and at least two side streets. One policewoman was shooing passers-by away.

The police stayed on top of the guy the entire time. At first there were two cops, then four, then six then eight -- all standing around him as he yelled. I kept wondering, why hasn't someone called an ambulance? (Denver's major city hospital is across the street and three blocks south) After 6 minutes or so, a fire truck was dispatched from the station a block to my north, and it arrived pretty quickly. Someone from the fire truck jumped out and joined the circle of cops standing around the guy on the ground. Still no sign of an ambulance.

Around 8 1/2 minutes after I began filming, the man was still screaming in pain for help, and finally I heard and saw an ambulance on its way. Incredibly, it passed the street it should have turned on and had to go 2-3 long blocks up to the next turn and then back down, which tacked an additional full minute onto the time it arrived at the scene. What if the person had been having a heart attack? That could have been the minute between life and death.

I can't even begin to imagine what kind of energy and respiratory system it takes to be able to scream non-stop for more than 20 minutes while being pinned down by police.

The arrival of the ambulance didn't seem to do much. A medic got out and joined the growing number of police crouched around the man screaming on the ground. It seemed like an unbearably long time before they put the man on a stretcher and into the ambulance. By this time there were 10 to 12 cops and a medic and probably the guy from the fire truck standing over the guy. What took so long? It seemed like they were doing nothing but holding him down and watching him yell.

Finally, the police and medics lifted him onto a gurney and into the ambulance and as they hauled him off, I could hear his cries from the ambulance but I couldn't make out what he was yelling.

Despite this happening in view of hundreds of apartments in several buildings on both sides of a very busy thoroughfare, I only found one tweet about it Monday night, and nothing from the Denver Police Department or news media.

Yesterday, it occurred to me to check the Denver crime statistics website. The stats track every report of crime in every city neighborhood from murder, assault, sex crimes, robbery, burglary, theft on down.

Sure enough, the incident appeared there. So what offense did police suspect this screaming man to have committed? Did he kill someone? Rape someone? Assault someone?

The man on the ground who yelped and screamed for more than 20 minutes, while pinned down by Denver police and observed by members of the fire department and medics, was suspected of committing an offense in the category of "public disorder", described as "criminal mischief and other".

This might (or might not) be an appropriate place to mention that on Monday, a federal jury awarded $14 million in damages to protesters injured by Denver police during last summer's George Floyd protests.

I have no more words. Only the video I made that you see at the top. (And if this is your first time here, to be absolutely clear, I don't handle civil rights cases or state misdemeanors, so please don't call me if you are looking for representation for one of those types of cases).

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  • Display: Sort:
    We had a similar situation ... (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Wed Mar 30, 2022 at 04:47:00 PM EST
    ... in front of my own office building in downtown Hilo about six weeks ago, in which a man who I'd guess was in his late 20s or early 30s just stood in the middle of the street and shouted vile obscenities at passers-by. (Disclosure: I was one of those passers-by he yelled at and quite honestly, I've been called worse.)

    I assumed at the time that Hawaii County police officers had taken this individual to Hilo Medical Center's psych ward to be held for observation. It simply never occurred to me until just now that they could have or even would have also charged him with disorderly conduct. Of course the police could have done so, and I don't know why I thought otherwise.

    Personally, I take exception to the idea of criminalizing mental illness like that, particularly when it's quite apparent that somebody's having a psychotic episode (even if its drug-induced) or an emotional breakdown in public.

    Unless that person or someone else is in danger of imminent harm or worse because of the incident, our public priority should be empathetic and focused on getting that individual the help / treatment that person needs, rather than further stigmatizing the individual with a criminal arrest record.

    But then I also recognize from my policy work that sometimes, the only way we can actually get these individuals that help is to first arrest them in order to enter them into the system for court-ordered treatment. But even then, the bar should be high before we go there because not all judges are necessarily empathetic with defendants who suffer from mental illness.

    It really wasn't all that long ago, historically speaking, when somebody could be legally consigned against their will to an asylum or institution merely because we found them to be a public nuisance or an inconvenience to our family.

    And it was really not all that difficult for men to do that to women simply by accusing them of being "hysterical," an all-purpose (and mostly imaginary) female affliction which in the first half of the 20th century was an actual legal rationale in many locales for institutionalizing women against their will.

    We really don't want to return to those bad old days again.

    Would it have helped (none / 0) (#1)
    by Towanda on Wed Mar 30, 2022 at 10:16:32 AM EST
    if a lawyer was on the scene? Or does that escalate police action?

    Angel dust... (none / 0) (#2)
    by fishcamp on Wed Mar 30, 2022 at 01:42:13 PM EST
    Same as Rodney King.

    "was suspected of committing an offense" (none / 0) (#3)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Mar 30, 2022 at 02:13:40 PM EST
    was suspected of committing an offense in the category of "public disorder", described as "criminal mischief and other".

    He said, "What were you arrested for, kid?" And I said, "Littering." And they all moved away from me on the bench There, and the hairy eyeball and all kinds of mean nasty things, till I Said, "And creating a nuisance." And they all came back, shook my hand,And we had a great time on the bench

    Unless I am reading your link incorrectly, he was also suspected of "Burglary/Buglary of a business with forced entry," no?

    I think you may have misread it. (none / 0) (#4)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Wed Mar 30, 2022 at 04:39:41 PM EST
    In her hyperlinked PDF attachment, Jeralyn highlighted the Case No. 2022153300. (I'm speculating here, but I'm assuming that she perhaps blacked out the incident location because it's also the address of her own apartment building.) The other two case numbers in that link likely have nothing to do with the guy who was yelling in the street in her video.



    Ah, yes, probably so. Thanks. (none / 0) (#6)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Mar 30, 2022 at 05:13:59 PM EST
    no that was a different case (none / 0) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Mar 30, 2022 at 07:31:51 PM EST
    only the one with the address blacked out is the one in which he was the subject of an incident -- I blacked out the address because I don't want to share my address with the world

    Thank you. That makes sense. (none / 0) (#8)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Mar 30, 2022 at 07:33:02 PM EST
    Then there is a civil case I handled. Man wrecks (none / 0) (#9)
    by oculus on Wed Mar 30, 2022 at 09:45:41 PM EST
    car.  Is in ditch, injured. CHP arrives.  Think man is on PCP from his actions. (Tox results, later.  He isn't). Man admitted to hospital. Bites off his male roommate's p#nus. Victim sues state and hospital. You never can tell, huh.