DENVER — Public safety officials said Tuesday that two Denver sheriff's deputies were fired in connection with separate assaults on inmates, including one who received a $3.3 million settlement in a jail abuse lawsuit.
The dismissals of Edward Keller and Thomas Ford came as the sheriff's department tries to make sweeping changes after a series of high-profile misconduct and excessive force cases that prompted former Sheriff Gary Wilson to resign.
Keller was fired more than three years after jail cameras captured him choking former inmate Jamal Hunter, who had sought medical attention for injuries suffered when other inmates attacked him. Hunter said in his lawsuit that another deputy ignored his screams and encouraged the July 2011 attack by inmates.
Ford is seen holding down Hunter during the incident involving Keller, but officials said Ford's firing was related to a separate case from July in which surveillance cameras showed him punching an inmate in a jail intake area. Prosecutors previously announced they would not charge Ford because a jury would likely find the use of force appropriate.
Keller said Hunter was belligerently demanding attention and he felt threatened, though not afraid, according to his termination letter from sheriff's officials. He also questioned why it took internal affairs investigators three years to investigate the incident.
His attorney, Donald Sisson, said Keller will appeal his firing. The use-of-force against Hunter was reasonable, and Keller is a political scapegoat, he said.
Ford's attorney, Sean Olson, did not immediately return a call for comment. He told officials at Ford's disciplinary hearing that the punch caught on video was a measured response to a perceived threat.
Safety Director Stephanie O'Malley said the inmate posed no credible threat, noting that Ford appeared to kick the man after he had fallen to the ground. Deputies are expected to treat inmates with dignity and respect, she said.
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