Former Denver mayoral candidate and civil rights activist Terrance Roberts will receive a $50,000 settlement to resolve allegations that Denver police pepper-sprayed him without reason during a racial justice protest in July 2020.
Attorneys for Roberts filed a lawsuit based on the incident last year. The suit named the city, former Denver police Chief Paul Pazen and three unidentified police officers as plaintiffs.
The core allegation was that an officer targeted Roberts because he was leading a demonstration demanding police accountability amid the recent killings of Black and Brown people by police, including the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. The demonstration also served as a counter-protest against a rally supporting police and President Donald Trump’s reelection bid.
The Denver City Council approved the settlement agreement on Monday afternoon.
It was the latest in a series of payments the council has approved to resolve legal claims tied to Denver police conduct during the racial justice protests in the summer of 2020. Several other protest-related settlements also were approved by the council Monday.
For Roberts, the lawsuit and settlement were the latest chapter in a long history of police in Denver and Aurora targeting him for his advocacy.
“It’s been a long road for me dealing with local law enforcement agencies trying to destroy my life, literally for fighting for justice for victims of police brutality,” Roberts said. “I’m not a bad person. I’m doing what they swore to do — to serve and protect. I’m just doing it in a different fashion.”
The Denver City Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the case on Monday afternoon.
A former gang member-turned-anti-gang activist, Roberts was acquitted of attempted murder in a highly publicized case in 2015. He went on trial for shooting Bloods gang member Hasan Isaiah Jones two years earlier at a peace rally Roberts had organized in the Holly Square shopping center in his neighborhood of Park Hill. Roberts claimed the shooting was self-defense.
The case was the basis for a recent book and documentary film by journalist Julian Rubinstein.
Roberts ran for Denver mayor earlier this year on a progressive platform that focused on racial and economic justice in the city. He came in ninth out of 16 candidates in the first round of the election before endorsing Mike Johnston, the eventual winner in the runoff.
Roberts said he felt his treatment by Denver police during the 2020 protests undermined his reputation and his chances in the race.
During the demonstration, Roberts delivered a speech in front of the Colorado Capitol building and then marched across Civic Center Park with other counter-protesters. Near the Greek Amphitheatre, the protesters passed a group of police officers and Roberts led them in chants.
At that point, the lawsuit said, an unidentified Denver police officer approached Roberts and sprayed him with pepper spray. Two other officers stood by and did nothing to intervene in the unprovoked attack, the suit alleged.
Roberts did not require professional medical treatment, but his eyes continued to burn for days after the incident, according to the suit.
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