Junction police sued by woman alleging rape

Glenn Coyne

A woman who alleges she was raped in her home by a Grand Junction police officer claims the department ignored evidence of the officer’s “propensity for violence against women,” and that the department had systemic problems investigating its own, according to a lawsuit filed in Mesa County District Court.

“There was a pattern and practice of reckless and heedless investigations; and/or deliberate and intentional disregard of evidence showing an officer’s abuse of power,” reads a complaint filed by an attorney for a local woman who said she was victimized by the late Glenn Coyne.

The woman, through her Denver-based attorney, has filed a lawsuit naming the department, former Chief Bill Gardner, current Chief John Camper, Coyne’s former supervising sergeant and 10 “John and Jane Does” inside the department, all of whom she alleges collectively violated her protections under the 14th Amendment.

“Specifically, plaintiff had a constitutional right not to be sexually assaulted and raped by a police officer in her home,” the lawsuit reads.

Coyne, who was 35, committed suicide Oct. 6, 2009, five days after he was arrested on suspicion of burglary and sexual assault related to the incident that happened at her home around midnight Sept. 29. The officer was fired by Camper on Oct. 1, the same night Coyne was booked into Mesa County Jail.

The woman’s lawsuit alleges the Police Department was deficient in screening potential new officers, as well as training, monitoring and administering discipline. It also takes specific aim at Gardner in the handling of an internal investigation involving Coyne, which stemmed from December 2008 allegations that Coyne had sexually assaulted another woman.

The case was investigated criminally by the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, but District Attorney Pete Hautzinger cited a lack of proof in declining to bring charges.

Coyne in March 2009 was placed on probationary status and returned to work at the conclusion of an internal investigation.

“Officer Coyne should have been terminated,” attorneys wrote in the lawsuit.

Coyne was among a group of officers who responded to the woman’s home Sept. 27. She had called 911 to report problems with her juvenile son, who had been suspected of making small bombs and detonating them.

Coyne made multiple trips to the woman’s home over the hours and days that followed, making sexual jokes and flirting with the woman, telling her on two of the visits, “he expected her to be in pajamas already, or in the process of changing,” the lawsuit reads.

On Sept. 28, the lawsuit alleges, Coyne received permission from his sergeant to get off work at midnight, an hour before his shift was scheduled to end.

“Upon information and belief, Officer Coyne’s supervisor told Officer Coyne that he could go to the plaintiff’s home, while on duty, and that (supervisor) would ‘cover for him,’ ” the lawsuit alleges.

The supervisor “knew that Officer Coyne was searching for excuses to return to plaintiff’s home,” the lawsuit reads.

The woman was sexually assaulted in her living room, and that Coyne at first pinned her on a couch as her five children were asleep in other rooms at the home, the lawsuit alleges.

“When Officer Coyne was done with plaintiff, he threatened her that if she told anyone about the rape, he would ‘not be so kind on her son,’ ” the lawsuit reads.

“If you talk about police officers, they have connections,” Coyne told her, the suit alleges.

According to a formal notice of claim to city by the woman’s attorney, she suffered a broken shoulder, fractured ribs, other contusions and bruises, aside from injuries consistent with sexual assault.

Grand Junction City Attorney John Shaver said the city will file a formal response to the allegations.

Shaver said the city will seek to move the matter into federal court in Denver.

Specific monetary damages sought from the city are not specified in the lawsuit.

In a notice of claim filed earlier this year, an attorney for the woman wrote those amounts, “are expected to be significant and well in excess of $500,000.”


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