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Officer Gets 50 Day Suspension Over Lobato Shooting
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 12, 2006

DENVER, COLORADO--A Denver police officer will be suspended for just 50 days without pay for violating department policy when he shot to death an unarmed man with disabilities who was sitting alone in bed.

In the settlement reached Monday, officer Ranjan Ford, Jr., 34, agreed to drop his appeal of the original 90-day suspension imposed by Denver Manager of Safety Al LaCabe.

According to the Rocky Mountain News, Ford agreed to the reduced suspension, rather than fighting it through the Civil Service Commission, because he wants to leave to visit his father, who is being hospitalized in Texas.

In a report issued last summer, LaCabe concluded that Ford probably shot 63-year-old Frank Lobato accidentally, but that Ford's finger was on the trigger of his handgun before he identified his target. Department policy requires officers to keep their fingers off the trigger until the officer has decided to shoot.

Ford was one of three officers searching for Lobato's nephew on July 11, 2004 when he entered the window of the second-story bedroom where Lobato was lying in bed. Ford told investigators later that Lobato quickly sat up, flashed something that looked like a weapon, and shouted "What the (expletive)?". Ford fired once, striking Lobato in the right side of the chest. Lobato was declared dead just 20 minutes later.

Ford said that after he shot Lobato he heard something hit the floor on the opposite side of the bed. When he looked for a weapon, he saw a soda pop can. Lobato's fingerprints were not found on the can.

The investigation into Ford's conduct revealed that he probably would have considered anyone in the room a threat and that he was ready to shoot before he entered the room, LaCabe said. He said that Ford's statements were not consistent with the evidence or testimony from other officers who were just outside the bedroom door. LaCabe also noted that Ford fired the gun with his left hand, which was not his firing hand, rather than with both hands as he was trained. Additionally, the fact that he fired just once would have been unusual if the officer had decided a suspect was a threat.

Lobato's family claimed that he used crutches to get around because of "very limited mobility" and that he was using medication for an unspecified mental disability. He was scheduled to undergo treatment for heroin addiction at the time of his death.

The family has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the City of Denver, its police department, and a number of officers over Lobato's death, which was the third time in less than three years that people with disabilities were killed by Denver police.

On July 5, 2003, Officer James Turney shot Paul Childs III, a 15-year-old with mental retardation and epilepsy, when the teen failed to drop a kitchen knife he was clutching to his own chest. Turney was cleared of criminal charges in relation to Childs' death, and a 10-month suspension was later reversed. Turney returned to duty, but was placed in an office job with no patrol responsibilities.

The city later paid a $1.325 million out-of-court settlement to Childs' family to keep them from suing.

The city plans to appeal the commission's decision regarding Turney's disciplinary action next month.

On January 30, 2002, Officer Turney and fellow officer Robert Silvas shot and killed 18-year-old Gregory Smith, who was deaf. Like Childs, Smith failed to follow instructions to drop a knife -- in Smith's case a pocketknife.

Smith's mother has filed a $12 million civil-rights lawsuit against Turney and Silvas, their supervisors and the City of Denver. The suit accused them of denying Smith's constitutional rights, failing to train officers properly, and violating the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act.

"Officer gets shorter suspension" (Denver Post)
"Denver officer who killed unarmed man has 40 days knocked off his suspension" (Rocky Mountain News)
Penalty sets key precedent for police (Denver Post)

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