Colorado Rights Blog


  • Anthony Martinez is 84-years-old and suffering from renal failure, as well as other serious medical conditions including dementia. He is currently incarcerated in the Sterling Correctional Facility, site of one of Colorado’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks with almost 600 active COVID-19 cases. He and his family are understandably terrified that he will catch the virus and die.

    In the midst of this public health crisis, incarcerated people as vulnerable as Anthony, could and should be immediately released to safely live out their remaining years with family.

    Read more about Anthony Martinez and other at-risk incarcerated people. 

  • Ronald Johnson is pre-diabetic, suffers from asthma and high blood pressure, and regularly uses an inhaler to breathe. His age and respiratory ailments put him at risk of serious illness and death if he contracts COVID-19. With over hundreds of active cases in Colorado’s prisons, his family fears he will not make it out alive. His daughter, Amber, says, “In prison, he can’t protect himself and he can’t social distance. My deep fear is that my dad will die in prison. That is an awful, traumatic reality to consider. My chest is tight just thinking about how quickly it spreads and how vulnerable he is.”

    Governor Hickenlooper shortened his sentence following testimony from family, friends and correctional officers advocating for his early release. Yet, he is still eight years away from parole. While he remains in prison, COVID-19 continues to spread. Ronald’s three siblings, four children and four grandchildren are desperate for his release.

    Read more about Ronald Johnson and other at-risk incarcerated people.

  • Tuesday Olson knew her pregnancy was in trouble and tried to access hospital care as soon as possible. But there was a problem: she was in jail. This is her story.
  • It’s time to end the death penalty in Colorado. Family members who lost loved ones to murder speak out against an unjust and broken system.

ACLU Lawsuit: Aurora Police Used Excessive Force during Unlawful Arrest of Disabled 60 Year-Old Black Man

DENVER – The ACLU of Colorado filed a federal lawsuit this morning on behalf of Dwight Crews, a disabled black man who was removed from his home without a warrant in the middle of the night, restrained, forced to the ground, and unlawfully arrested by Aurora police.

“The Constitution forbids police from intruding into the privacy of a person’s home unless they have a warrant issued by a judge,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein.  “In this case, police had no warrant, nor did any of the extremely limited exceptions to the warrant requirement apply.  Our 60-year-old client was not a threat and presented himself in a calm and cooperative manner.  Nevertheless, Aurora police arrested him inside his home, aggressively and violently threw him to the ground, restrained him, searched him, and presented him with a trumped-up, groundless charge of resisting arrest.”

According to the lawsuit, on November 14, 2015, Crews intervened to stop his stepdaughter from being physically abused by her husband.  The abuser, who is white, then called Aurora police and claimed that Crews had assaulted him and that Crews might have a gun inside his house.

At 2 am, more than an hour after the incident, two Aurora police officers arrived at Crews’ home and started banging loudly on the front door, flashing lights into the windows, and threatening to kick in the door if he did not come out.

One officer shouted, “You’re going to get a warrant for your arrest if you don’t come down here to resolve this.”

Crews, who had been on the third floor watching television, eventually heard the officers’ banging and came to the door.  The officers, who had no warrant, ordered him to come outside.  Crews complied and stepped out onto the front porch.  The officers then began a physical search of Crews.

As the officers were patting him down, Crews noticed that his cat had run out the front door.  He pointed at his cat and said, “My cat’s outside!”

When Crews, whose spine is damaged from a car accident, pointed to his cat, one of the officers threw him to the ground, slamming his body on top of jagged loose rocks.

Crews sustained multiple injuries.  Police took him into custody and charged him with resisting arrest and assault against his stepdaughter’s abuser.  A judge dismissed the resisting arrest charge for lack of evidence, and a jury found him not guilty of the assault charge, because he was defending his stepdaughter.

“This case adds to a disturbing string of incidents in which Aurora police have abused and violated the Constitutional rights of people of color,” said Silverstein. “Until Aurora improves police transparency and accountability, the victims have no choice but to seek justice in the courts.”

In July, Aurora paid $110,000 to settle claims brought by ACLU of Colorado on behalf of Darsean Kelley, a young black man who was tased in the back as he said, “I know my rights.”  In September,

ACLU of Colorado sued on behalf of Omar Hassan, a black man who Aurora police forcibly removed from a coffee shop after telling him “your kind of business is not welcome here.”

Today’s lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages.  Crews is represented by Silverstein and ACLU staff attorney Sara Neel, as well as ACLU cooperating attorneys Sarah Parady and J. Bennet Lebsack of Lowrey Parady LLC.


View the complaint:

Map of incidents involving Aurora Police and people of color:


The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.

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