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Denver DA won’t pursue charges against deputy who struck inmate

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DENVER — One of two veterans of the Denver County Sheriff’s Department who was placed on leave after an incident with a detainee will not face criminal charges, according to the Denver District Attorney Office, whose investigation into the incident concluded Friday.

Deputy Sheriff Thomas Ford, who has been with the department six and a half years, was placed on investigative leave with pay for “inappropriate use of force” on July 16.

The incident, which was caught on camera on July 13, involved Ford striking an inmate identified as Kyle Askins in the face.

After placing Ford on leave, former Denver Sheriff Gary Wilson requested an investigation into possible criminal charges against the deputy. Wilson has since resigned after his department was embroiled in several controversies.

Though the DA’s office acknowledged that Ford had struck Askins, they said the decision not to pursue criminal charges was based on “important facts that do not appear on the video.”

“I believe that a jury of Denver citizens, if presented with the facts revealed by this investigation, would find that the force employed by Denver Sheriff Ford against the inmate Askins was justified, and therefore not unlawful,” Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey wrote in a letter to interim Denver Sheriff Elias Diggins.

Morrissey said his office’s investigation revealed that before Ford struck Askins, Askins was directing racial slurs at Ford, who is black, and using threatening language over a lengthy period of time.

Rory Edwards, a registered nurse in the jail, corroborated that the inmate was making “horrible” statements directed at Ford.

Despite being told that he would be forcibly placed in his cell if the comments persisted, Askins continued to harass Ford in a criminal manner, according to Morrissey’s investigation.

At that point, Morrissey said Ford “reasonably” moved toward Askins to place him in his cell when Askins “stood up to confront” Ford.

“Because Askins had made threats just moments earlier, coupled with standing up and his tense posture, Deputy Ford viewed him as threatening,” Morrissey wrote.

Because Ford “is not required by Colorado law to wait to be struck first by an inmate before being legally justified to use reasonable and appropriate physical force,” Morrissey found that the deputy’s solitary strike to Askins’ face, which produced an injury that Morrissey called “slight and temporary,” did not necessitate criminal charges.

Officer William Lewis, who has been with the sheriff’s department for 12 years, was also placed on investigative leave with pay after the incident involving Ford and Askins. It was not immediately apparent if either Ford or Lewis has been reinstated by the Denver Sheriff’s Office.