Two Denver police officers and Denver Health Medical Center face a federal lawsuit for misidentifying a hospitalized woman as a burglary suspect, leading the woman to be mistakenly detained for nearly 48 hours for a crime she didn’t commit.
“Plaintiff was not the correct suspect in this incident, and Defendants would have known this if they had have followed basic police procedure,” the lawsuit filed Friday by attorney Sean Simeson states.
Two Denver police officers responded to a reported burglary and assault call in the early morning of Aug. 3, 2019, in downtown Denver. A security guard at the scene told officers Don Whyde and Brian Long that the female suspect had been taken to a hospital.
Whyde erroneously traveled to Denver Health Medical Center, even though the suspect was transported to St. Joseph Hospital, according to the lawsuit and Denver Department of Public Safety documents. At Denver Health, he asked a charge nurse for a white woman who had been transported from downtown.
The charge nurse took him to a woman’s room, where he arrested the woman and handcuffed her to her hospital bed.
But the woman wasn’t the suspect and instead had been hospitalized after being at a bar and possibly being drugged, the lawsuit states. A bystander at the bar called 911 after noticing the woman acting strange. The Denver Post is not naming the woman as she did not commit a crime and is a possible victim of sexual assault.
At 4:30 a.m., the woman was transported to jail, but the nurse at the facility sent her back to the hospital for more treatment. The woman was then moved to St. Joseph’s and then back to Denver Health for a sexual assault exam before being returned to jail. The woman told a nurse in the emergency room that she did not remember four or five hours of the previous night and that she was being charged with a crime she did not commit, the lawsuit states.
Police didn’t realize they arrested the wrong woman until a detective noticed the surveillance footage from the burglary showed a blonde female suspect and that the arrested woman had dark hair.
The woman was released from jail on bond on Aug. 4, 2019, and charges were dropped two days later.
The nurse violated the hospital’s policy for working with law enforcement and verifying patients’ identities, the lawsuit alleges.
Public safety officials last year ruled that Whyde and Long did not follow police protocols and both officers served unpaid 10-day suspensions.
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