Grand Junction cops probed in damage complaint

Transients claim camp was trashed

Three Grand Junction police officers were placed on paid leave Friday as an investigation focuses on allegations they damaged property owned by transients at a series of camps.

Grand Junction Police Department spokeswoman Kate Porras said the probe was the result of a formal complaint filed on Wednesday by Grand Junction resident Jacob Richards, 29, who alleges officers slashed tents, punctured bicycle tires and wrecked other property on Monday at camps along the banks of the Colorado River in Grand Junction.

The Police Department did not release the names of the officers, but it said in a news release Friday the three also are under internal investigation.

“Police Chief John Camper has made his standards clear to all department employees; all citizens, irrespective of race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status, will be treated with courtesy and respect,” the news release said. “Conduct that does not meet that standard, or the failure to report conduct that does not meet that standard, will be fully investigated and addressed as a disciplinary matter.”

Mesa County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said a criminal investigation is active, and she declined further comment.

Interviewed Friday, Richards said he was surprised, but still pleased officials were looking into the matter.

“I’m not surprised officers on our force would do something like this,” Richards said.

Richards said he was contacted Tuesday by several transients who claimed they were denied access by a group of Grand Junction officers, roughly between 10:30 a.m. and noon Monday, when they tried to return to their homes. Approximately 10 people camp in the area, Richards said.

When the transients were allowed in, they found at least eight tents were slashed open, tires on four bicycles were punctured, and rope lines that held clothes and various shelters were cut down, Richards said.

“The cops were the only ones in the area,” he said.

Porras on Friday said the department was in process of identifying and trying to contact the people whose property was allegedly damaged.

The alleged incident isn’t the first time Richards has lodged formal misconduct claims against Grand Junction police.

Richards was among three people who were cited by police in October 2008 when a group of protesters lurched in front of a motorcade moving Sarah Palin, the Republican candidate for vice president. The protesters were physically removed from the roadway by officers, which spurred a use-of-force complaint by Richards.

The officers were cleared of wrongdoing.


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