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Police Encounter Leaves Woman Scarred

Posted 04-22-06

A version of this article appeared in the 04/20/06 Denver Weekly News



Two weeks after having her face damaged, bruised and scarred as a result of an encounter with Aurora police, Diamond Holiday now suffers near panic attacks when she sees uniformed officers around her. "I'm scared of the police," the 23-year-old said in the Curtis Park home of her brother Azma Holiday. Not only does she fear and get knots in her stomach but she doubts she will ever call on police for assistance even if their help is truly needed.

Her deepened apprehensions came about after an Apr. 3 incident at a family friend's home. Distraught over the death of the female friend's mother, Holiday admitted that she was intoxicated upon arrival at the residence as both women had been drinking earlier in the evening. After a disagreement and altercation, Holiday was put out of the home but from there, reports from the Aurora Police Department (APD) and the young woman begin to conflict.

[u]Conflicting reports[/u]

According to the official APD statement given by Officer Jeffrey Prince, he was dispatched to the home around 10:00 p.m. after a complaint of two women fighting was called in, one of them said to have been armed with a crowbar. Prince reports three officers arriving on the scene, but Holiday maintains there were five White officers present before the situation was finally settled.

Prince goes on to say that when he arrived, one of his fellow officers, J. Grizzle, was speaking with Holiday and a man, who turned out to be her mechanic. Holiday explained that the mechanic had driven her to the home, departed and later returned to pick her up. The two were leaving the premises when a police car parked behind them preventing their exit. She said the two remained in the vehicle until an officer "snatched her" out of it, however, Prince's recollection was that the pair were outside of the vehicle and talking with Grizzle who was attempting to find out Holiday's name.

"She would only reply, I don't know my name," Prince said. "[She] then became resistive and tried to walk away ..... Grizzle pinned her against the [truck] that was in the parking lot." Prince then proceeds to give a detailed explanation of how the two officers attempted to get the 165-pound woman into handcuffs to "control her movements." They were unsuccessful, he continued, due to her abusive and resistive behavior which he alleged included an attempt to punch him; use of profanity, even calling officers the ˜N-word,' and uncooperatively tensing her muscles which hindered them from placing her arms behind her back to be handcuffed. By this time, another officer, identified as T. Johnson, had joined in and Prince said, "we were able to force her body forward and down. [She] landed on her stomach and was placed into custody."

[u]Police report doesn't add up?[/u]

After reading the report several times, Azma has found that it does not make sense and that his sister could not have possibly attempted to hit anyone based on the position she was in as described by Prince. His sister, a mother of two children, agreed and recalled that even the judge she appeared before remarked that the police account was the "strangest" he had ever read. She firmly denied using the ˜N-word,' a term she rarely uses and never in reference to a White person. Azma has concluded that some on the police force deliberately create the type of atmosphere that encourages resistance. He believes that officers on scene that night could have handled things much differently, especially upon seeing that his sister was intoxicated.

Regardless of the conflicting reports, there is no arguing with the end result - Holiday's blackened, swollen eye and injured face - caught on her brothers cell-phone camera the following day. Despite APD's report that she landed on her stomach when officers forced her to the ground, Holiday said her face made first contact on the pavement and with such force that she felt it to the back of her head. Azma also explained that there were no injuries to her chest or stomach nor was her shirt damaged as it should have been based on what was described in the police account. Ms. Holiday admitted cursing, mumbling and making statements during the encounter but insisted that she did not resist or become verbally abusive until after she was injured and placed in handcuffs.

Her injuries landed her in an Aurora hospital for a few hours before she was booked at the city jail where she spent the night after being charged with three offenses: obstructing a police officer; resisting arrest, and injury to property. After appearing before a judge the next morning and pleading guilty to the resisting arrest charge, she was sentenced to 13 days in jail but was allowed a two-day grace period to make arrangements for her five-year-old son and two month old daughter who were cared for by their uncle the night she was behind bars.

[u]Children affected[/u]

Although her youngest child is unaware of what has occurred, Holiday is more disturbed at how the events have affected her son. Upon seeing her injuries after her release, he was deeply hurt and seemingly in a state of shock and now, many times, she catches him staring at her after which he will embrace and kiss her. It crushes her to know that he will never forget the sight of her battered face and that now he also is afraid of the police and freezes in his tracks whenever officers are around. Even prior to the Aurora incident, he had bad memories, Holiday said, explaining that when he was only two years old, her son witnessed police shoot two boys in Park Hill. " He's always had a bad picture of [the police] in his mind," she said.

[u]˜Cop-watching' necessary[/u]

Azma can relate because his childhood memories of the police are of officers wrestling individuals to the ground, not of helping them. "I've never seen a positive cop," he said, adding that he often sees officers in his neighborhood "messing" with young people who are doing little more than walking down the street. Life for many Blacks, he said, is filled with two major concerns: staying out of jail and away from the police. As a hip hop artist, he incorporates his views into his songs and he also encourages concerned citizens to adopt the habit of ˜cop-watching' anytime they see a police stop, especially at night. He shared that he has seen positive results come from individuals observing police encounters from a respectable distance which have made a difference in how officers have behaved toward certain individuals.

Diamond added that modern technology, in the form of cell phones with camera and video features, should make ˜cop-watching' easier and more effective since the hand-held items can be used to video tape and record questionable incidents. As of now, she is seeking legal representation for her case and has filed an official complaint with APD's Internal Affairs Bureau, but one of her main goals is to call attention to events of the fateful night as they are another sign that police have been "getting away with too much." Her brother agrees and fully stands by her side even though frustrated about not being able to protect her from the physical harm she endured. In his opinion, the APD is guilty of many things that are being swept under the rug because victims are hesitant to come forward and speak out, and for this reason he was moved to put a spotlight on the events of Apr. 3.

APD spokesman Rudy Herrera stated he has not read Prince's report but, after years of dealing with individuals who have resisted arrest, he is not very sympathetic toward Holiday. He went on to say that it is important to keep in mind that she had been drinking prior to the incident and that a test for other substances was never performed, therefore, the possibility exists she may have been under the influence of more than alcohol. The sergeant also explained that it is not unheard of for non-Black officers to be called the ˜N-word' by persons being detained or questioned, and that many times, those who have an aversion toward police are the ones most often found resisting and then reaping the consequences of that resistance. He concluded by stating that Holiday's formal complaint has not as yet been received by APD.

- Adeeba Folami -
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