Tape contradicts cop's testimony about fight
August 14, 2008
By Judi Villa

A Denver police officer appears to have lied under oath when he denied slamming a man's face into the ground during an arrest, according to court transcripts reviewed by the Rocky Mountain News.

The testimony of Detective Michael Cordova doesn't match an account of the April 4 altercation that was caught on videotape by a witness.

John Heaney, 57, had his two front teeth broken in a fight with undercover vice detectives working a ticket-scalping operation outside Coors Field.

Heaney initially was blamed as the aggressor and charged with second-degree assault on a police officer.

Those charges were dropped last week after the videotape surfaced. Denver police also launched an internal investigation.

Cordova testified about the fight at a preliminary hearing in May.

"Was there some point where someone grabbed the back of Mr. Heaney's head and pushed it to the ground?" Heaney's attorney, Lonn Heymann, asked Cordova at the hearing.

"I don't know," Cordova answered.

"All right," Heymann continued. "Was there a point at which somebody slammed his face into the ground?"

"Absolutely not," Cordova answered.

Another detective, Noel Ikeda, testified at the same hearing that he also didn't see any officer slam Heaney's face into the ground.

Police investigated the officers' use of force after the fight and cleared them of any wrongdoing.

The internal affairs report indicates all the officers involved told a similar story of Heaney throwing punches and continuing to resist even after he was on the ground.

None mentioned Cordova's actions that were caught on tape.

"What the video shows is the police were lying through their teeth about the way they detained him," Heymann said.

The confrontation began after Heaney struck Cordova with his bicycle at the intersection of 20th and Blake streets, police said.

Cordova claims that Heaney then punched him in the face.

Heaney says he only reached to flip Cordova's baseball cap off his head when police started pummeling him.

The first parts of the confrontation were not caught on video. The tape begins with Heaney already on the ground on hands and knees as officers hit, kick and choke him.

Just before Cordova is seen slamming Heaney's face into the ground, a voice on the tape can be heard saying, "Stop resisting."

But Heaney is already pinned on his stomach, with officers kneeling on his back, and he doesn't appear to be fighting back.

Al LaCabe, the city's safety manager, said the incident will be "fully investigated."