According to the United States Congressional Oversight Manual, ‘…it is the role of the media and Congress to pursue, protect and preserve evidence’ in cases of investigations of potential government wrong-doing. It is interesting that the word ‘media’ comes before the word ‘Congress’ in that statement of scope. What an acknowledgment of the role of a free press in a free and democratic society.
While many readers may think this a reference to the current national situation in which the House Oversight Committee is attempting to ascertain the facts of Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election. This includes possible actions by the Trump campaign and President Donald Trump. However, there is another example closer to home.
Over the course of the past several months, a team of Ark Valley Voice reporters has been quietly interviewing witnesses to an incident that occurred in 2016, involving the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office and the Salida Police Department. We undertook this story because two sources told us they believed that excessive force had been used, while another source confirmed that although the District Attorney office knew about it, no action had been taken, nor did it appeared that any action would be taken.
AVV reporters assembled a body of evidence that appears to contradict the official written accounts of the incident, pointing directly to use of excessive force in arresting a young man, Dillon Kimberlin. In what witnesses describe as ‘a show of overwhelming force’, they proceeded to smash his face, breaking his nose, and deny him medical treatment for four days.
The incidents involved both Sheriff John Spezze and then Salida Police Chief Terry Clark, and what witnesses say appeared to be an overwhelming presence of officers for a situation, in which Kimberlin was not resisting arrest. According to multiple civilians and law enforcement witnesses, Kimberlin did not indicate any ‘pre-attack’ indicators, but the level of force, including the use of a taser at least three times, was overwhelming. Official reports of the incident tell a different story, saying he resisted, and force was required, They make no mention of the physical injuries, how they were incurred, or the fact that Kimberlin went four days without medical attention.
While news media pursues truth in reporting stories such as this, deciding what to do with that evidence is not our role. We wanted the evidence to be placed within the justice system prior to breaking the story (link below). Since we had already learned the DA’s office had apparently chosen not to investigate, we sought advice at the top of the Colorado Justice Department, speaking first with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.
Weiser listened to the overview and asked, “Why don’t you want to place this in [your] DA’s office?”
We responded that we did not believe that any action would be taken.
Weiser referred us to Janet Drake, deputy attorney general for the Criminal Justice Section at the Attorney General’s Office. She listened and said, they could investigate but would need to be asked to be involved. She asked the same question, “Why don’t you want to place this in [your] DA’s office?”
We gave her the same answer. From what we understood, we did not believe that any action would be taken.
Drake asked us to speak with Agent Kirby Lewis, in the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s Major Crimes and Investigations Section. She asked us to keep her posted on what happened. Lewis listened to the overview, asked the same question and got our same answer: we had no reason to believe that any action would be taken. Lewis told us he knew District Attorney Molly Chilsen and asked us to contact her and sit down with her to talk about what we had discovered, adding that the DA could make the decision to refer the incident to the CBI for further action.
Over the course of more than a week, Ark Valley Voice attempted to contact Chilsen and finally reached her on Wednesday, May 8. She said she would not sit down with Ark Valley Voice to go over the files and directed us to submit the information in writing. Seventy-two hours later, on Friday, May 10, Chilsen resigned.
Ark Valley Voice submitted the witness interviews and incident summary to the District Attorney’s Office. Three possible actions might ensue: either the case will be referred, it will be rejected, or it will be postponed for action by whoever is appointed to fill the remainder of Chilsen’s term of office.
For more on the story about Dillon Kimberlin: www.arkvalleyvoice.com/disparities-in-official-reports-witnesses-point-to-excessive-force/