Local graphic designer assaulted by Denver police
By Christy Ellen
Denver resident Eric Winfield said he doesn’t hate cops.
Not in the slightest.
However, on Oct. 28, 2007, the graphic designer and artist said he
was assaulted by three.
“I wouldn’t react any differently to a cop right now,” said
Winfield, 29. “But those three? They are just bad at their job. I
don’t want to see someone lose their job, but they did a piss poor job
of policing. That’s the bottom line.”
It was early Sunday morning at 1:45 a.m. during the World Series
in Denver when a fight erupted outside of the now-defunct La Rouge
Nightclub, at 14th and Market Streets downtown.
Winfield — quipped with his 24-by-36-inch canvas painting — and
two friends bypassed the incident en route from his sister’s apartment
to the car.
Suddenly, Winfield said he was tackled from behind, slammed on the
ground and pinned down by a 320-pound police officer.
“I remember flashes of white light from getting hit in the face,”
he said. “When I was on the ground and the one police officer was
kneeing me in the crotch I was just thinking ‘Oh my God, this is
really happening? I’m already on the ground, why knee me in the
crotch? How is this actually happening?’”
Three Denver police officers, collectively weighing 780 pounds,
repeatedly hit the 160-pound, six-foot-tall Winfield in the face,
kicked him in the ribs and crotch and kneed him in the back, he said.
“I just want to understand why it took three police officers to
subdue me,” he said. “They thought I was a guy who supposedly was in a
club that I never was, starting a fight that I never did. And I just
want them to explain exactly their actions and what their step-by-step
process was in determining that this other guy, who was walking down
the street — whom they described as a dark-haired, dark-skinned man
– ended up being me.”
Winfield is blond-haired, blue-eyed and white. In the deposition,
he said the police officers described him as Mexican.
The tightly-gripped handcuffs affixed to his now nerve-damaged
hands, the shackling to a Denver Health ambulance gurney for hours
devoid of medical assistance, the day-and-a-half in the felony ward of
the Denver Police Station and the permanent physical damage, including
a chipped tooth from the pavement, landed Winfield with a Second
Degree Assault charge on a Peace Officer and resisting arrest.
“I did nothing wrong,” said Winfield. “It’s very stressful. I
don’t really like to be the center of attention of anything. I have a
couple friends who tell me that I am the best candidate for getting
change and awareness out about this just because I have no criminal
record. I am a quiet person. I don’t get into trouble. I like to go
fishing. That’s my idea of fun.”
The night of the incident, Winfield was downtown at a
bar/restaurant watching the Colorado Rockies play the Boston Red Sox
in the third game of the World Series. After the game, the group spent
a few hours at the downtown apartment of his sister, Liz Viscardi.
Winfield said he had a few drinks over an extended period of time,
but was not intoxicated. He said he pleaded with various Denver Health
workers to take his Blood Alcohol Content, to no avail.
Over the last couple years, Winfield said not only has he spent
thousands of dollars on criminal lawyer fees and medical bills, but he
has missed many days of work to attend depositions.
As an active artist in the community, the permanent nerve damage
to his hands, as diagnosed irreparable by his neurologist, is often
crippling to his artwork.
Viscardi, 24, did not witness the assault, but has spent much time
focusing on justice for her brother’s cause, including creating a
grassroots movement on Facebook to raise awareness.
She said she still cries about the incident.
“It’s over two years later and I still remember every detail and
it still hits home every time,” Viscardi said. “When I first saw him
in jail, I was in total shock. I hadn’t realized how bad it was. His
face was just completely swollen and he had blood everywhere. It’s
still fresh in my mind. There are some images that I had never seen
before that I’ve recently viewed. When I look at those pictures, it
just scares me. There’s one and he looks so lifeless. He’s laying
there on the gurney. It’s freaky to see your own brother laying there,
covered in blood. It’s just surreal.”
Winfield said he was taught respect by his parents at an early age
growing up in Colorado Springs and his family always followed all the
He was mellow, easygoing, laid back and never involved in any
altercations, said Viscardi.
This incident has banded Winfield’s family together in a battle for justice.
However, he and his family have encountered numerous snags in the
system while blindly sorting through this life-altering event.
Immediately after the assault, Winfield hit the pavement in search
of support and direction.
Numerous letters were sent to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and
Gov. Bill Ritter over the years. Viscardi and Winfield said the Denver
politicians never acknowledged the pleas.
The mayor’s office did not return calls for comment.
Winfield also spent a considerable amount of time at the American
Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) office, which produced minimal results.
Due to restrictions and stipulations, he said he suffered
difficulties in obtaining a civil rights lawyer, as he had to wait 180
days from the initial assault to file an intent to sue. His case
worker at Internal Affairs received a promotion and in order to
advance, she was required to close all open cases, including
Winfield’s. Various citizen support and change groups, such as Cop
Watch, proved more of a complaint forum than results-driven action, he
“I didn’t really have any place to go with my story,” said
Winfield. “I mean I can see how people would get discouraged and
either settle the suit or stop trying. I’m sure there’s a lot of false
complaints out there but it was just so frustrating trying to get
help. There’s no real path to go down and that’s part of the problem.
You don’t know where to go. ”
On Mar. 25, 2008, the criminal charges were dropped against
Winfield, proving he wasn’t involved in the incident. He said this was
one of the greatest days of his life.
He faces a civil trial May 5 in Federal court in Denver, when
he’ll go up against the three police officers.
Aside from covering the expenses he has incurred, Winfield said he
doesn’t care about the money. He wants justice. He wants change.
“I want awareness,” he said. “For my story there’s 100 others that
have happened. If it was justice just for the sake of me, there’s no
point. There has to be some sort of median that we can actually come
to where this doesn’t happen. The only thing that’s going to make that
happen is we need to stand up. We hear that a million times. But this
is your neighborhood. This is where you live, this is where you pay
taxes. The militarization of our police officers, it needs to come to
an end. We need police officers who are just part of the community
instead of against it at all points in time.
“Bottom line, when police officers take off the badge and put down
the holster, they’re a person. They need to start thinking that even
with the badge and the holster, they’re a person first and a police
Viscardi said she thinks the three officers are disrespecting the
uniform and all it represents.
“They’ve totally changed my perception of Denver police,” said
Viscardi. “ You grow up learning that if something’s wrong, you go to
the police. And now I am more scared of police than I feel safe with
Nonetheless, Winfield still has respect for the law.
“I think the easiest thing to do is or the easiest conclusion to
jump to is think that all police officers are bad,” said Winfield.
“But they aren’t. There just needs to be some accountability for this
because it makes them look bad. The more these stories come out, the
good police officers look bad. And the bad police officers will stay
Winfield said the most discouraging aspect of attending
depositions and the upcoming trial is the cops’ dishonesty.
“They’re just lying through their teeth,” said Winfield. “I knew
it was going to happen and I was prepared for it, but just seeing them
sit there and I tried to make eye contact, I tried to get them to look
at me and they wouldn’t. Nothing. It’s really just a slap in the
Winfield said he is confident about the trial in May.
“What I gain out of it, what the city and county of Denver gains
out of it, I don’t know,” said Winfield. “I hope at least some
awareness. At least people can see that no one deserves this. This
kind of thing should not happen to anyone.”