Lawyers representing a homeless Black veteran are calling for a criminal investigation into the vicious assault on the man by police during a traffic stop.
Body-camera footage shows a group of Colorado Springs police officers pounding Dalvin Gadson in his head and face with their fists, leaving him drenched in blood, swollen and bruised. His attorneys say Gadson received multiple injuries, including black eyes and a ruptured eardrum, and the beating exacerbated his post-traumatic stress disorder.
After the officers carried out the bloody arrest, they joked on camera about their efforts.
“It’s difficult to listen to these officers laugh and joke about beating a veteran to a bloody mess and drawing their firearm on an unarmed man,” said one of the man’s attorneys, Harry Daniels, in a statement. “With officers this casual about the use of excessive and potentially deadly force, Dalvin Gadson is lucky to be alive.”
“They beat him mercilessly and now he’s afraid to go outside and the VA can’t see him to treat his injuries and PTSD until January,” Daniels said.
Gadson was stopped on Sunday, Oct. 9 in the downtown section of Colorado Springs by Officer Colby Hickman for an improperly displayed license tag.
A GoFundMe profile set up days later by Gadson states he had been living in his car for three to four months after becoming homeless. As a way to make money to support himself, Gadson said he worked as a Doordash delivery person and other odd jobs. His goal was to make enough to rent out an apartment.
On the night in question, “a stranger” named Carlos knocked on his car while he was sleeping and asked him to “take him to his job close by for 20 dollars.”
“I needed the money, so I said yes. While driving him to his destination, I was pulled over by the police,” he wrote on the GoFundMe page.
“The police officer stepped outside his vehicle as I rolled down my window to say hey. When I spoke, he told me to place my hands outside the window, so I did. The officer walked towards the passenger side, his flashlight shining inside my car. He told me I had been pulled over because my license plate was missing,” Gadson recalled.
The former Army National Guard helicopter mechanic said he told the officer the plate was down and in the rear window of his car because he needed “new screws” to attach it to the back of his vehicle. However, Gadson said he didn’t know the plate had fallen into the seat and was not where he initially told the cop to look. The officer asked for identification from both men.
Despite the credentials checking out, additional police patrol cars came to the scene, and within one minute, as Gadson states, three or four more officers approached the driver’s side of his car.
Hickman ordered the veteran to get out of the car and accused him of being under the influence.
“You can smell the weed from here,” another officer tells Hickman. “Is that coming from that car?”
“Yeah,” Hickman replied.
The sale and consumption of cannabis are legal in Colorado. However, the man’s lawyers believe he was targeted because of his race.
“Dalvin Gadson was a homeless veteran living out of his car as he worked to reenlist and continue serving his country,” Daniels said. “But all these officers saw was a Black man, and they beat him for it, smiling for the camera as he lay on the ground bleeding.”
Gadson’s attorneys said he refused to get out of his car “because he didn’t understand why he was being detained.”
The group of officers attempted to yank him from the car before surrounding the man and repeatedly punching him in the head and face. They continued to attack Gadson with blows, even after he was out of the car and on the ground.
“One of the peace officers violently grabbed my hand, and my body’s natural reaction was to pull my hand back,” Gadson wrote.
“The same police officer immediately started punching me in the face while pulling me out of my car,” he continued. “After the first punch, I tried to say, ‘Okay;’ I tried to say, ‘Sorry;’ I tried to lay on the ground, but multiple officers were grabbing me, kicking me in the head, kneeing and elbowing me in the face, and punching me everywhere possible.”
“After I was punched several times in the face, I lost consciousness,” Gadson wrote.
Court documents state he received “facial laceration and swelling” and “was transported to the hospital for evaluation and treatment.” The police officer who accompanied Gadson to the hospital said she neither smelled cannabis on Gadson nor noticed him slurring.
“I f—ing drew down on him when you were hitting him,” one of the officers says to his colleague after the beating, and two others laugh and talk about the sequence of events. One officer punched Gadson in the head so hard that he split his knuckle through his gloves.
The officers said they used that level of force because Gadson had a knife in the car’s center console. However, his attorneys said that does not explain why they ambushed the man even after he was out of the vehicle.
“There’s no excuse for the excessive violence and brutality these officers used against Mr. Gadson,” said attorney Bakari Sellers in a statement. “No matter what excuse they try to manufacture, the fact is that they beat an unarmed man, a veteran, and they should be charged.”
Daniels’ office released images from the assault Tuesday and videos of the bloody arrest on Wednesday.
Lawyers claim Gadson also had two black eyes, a busted lip, and one eye was swollen shut with blood in his cornea. He was charged with two counts of second-degree assault on a police officer, resisting arrest, obstructing a peace officer, driving under the influence and driving without license plates. Gadson reportedly had no criminal record before this altercation.
After being released from the hospital, the man spent two days in the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center and was given a bond of $20,000. His sister, also a U.S. Army veteran, had to pay the bond for him out of her savings.
Court documents show the assault charges were dropped, and the DUI count was dismissed months later on Dec. 7. The judge said the officers presented “insufficient probable cause to require a blood test.”
“The only probable cause of impairment was Respondent’s slow speech and the odor of marijuana. Respondent’s speech in the video before his detention was not significantly different than his speech during the hearing,” the court decision states. “After the detention, any slurring was likely due to the swelling from the Respondent’s facial injuries. As for the odor of marijuana, odor alone is insufficient without other evidence of impairment.”