Philip White, an 80-year-old blind man, was harassed and assaulted by two law enforcement officers in 2012.
Today, he is more than $400,000 richer as a result of that attack.
All because a Denver police officer named Kyllion Chafin took offense after the blind man asked to feel his badge to ensure he was truly a cop.
Not only did Chafin refuse to allow White to feel his badge, the cop forced White’s hands behind his back and pushed him forward, resulting in White’s head being slammed into a hard ticket counter.
Chafin then cuffed him so tightly that White was left with permanent damage in his hands, making it difficult for him to read braille.
Then to top things off, Denver police tried to convince the jury during the trial last month that White is not really blind.
But White lost sight of one eye at the age of 11 when he was struck by a snowball. He then lost sight in his other eye due to a sympathetic response.
And standing at 5-feet, 2-inches and weighing 140 pounds, the then-77-year-old man is hardly an intimidating figure to deserve the treatment he received that day.
It all started in May 2012 when White was attempting to catch a bus at the Denver Greyhound station to return to his home in Eagle, Colorado.
The bus was full, so a ticket cashier told him to wait in the lobby in case any openings were available. He then asked to speak with a manager.
It was then that a security guard from Code-3 Protection & Security told White that he was trespassing and had to leave the property.
But White refused to leave and as a result, police were called.
Denver police officer Kyllion Chafin was the first cop on scene. That was when White asked to feel his badge to verify he was actually an officer.
His attorney, Mari Newman, told the Vail Daily he has had bad experiences in the past with police impersonators.
“He had almost been robbed once by a person impersonating a police officer,” Newman said.
Touching the officer’s badge is how he determines whether it’s legitimate or whether he’s being conned by an impostor, Newman said.
“There’s no legitimate reason for a police officer to refuse such a reasonable request,” Newman said.
White was on his phone talking with a 911 operator through all of this.
The officer insisted that White hang up the phone, and that made him even more nervous, Newman said.
After Chafin slammed his head against the ticket counter and cuffed his hands behind his back, White was walked outside and forced to sit down on a curb.
A Denver police sergeant then walked up to him and began asking questions, recording the conversation without telling White.
“While this elderly blind man with overly tight handcuffs was sitting on the floor with blood running down his face, a sergeant showed up and interrogated him, trying to get him to justify their excessive use of force,” Newman said.
“Can you imagine this?” Newman said. “Mr. White was saying his hands were going numb, but instead of taking care of him, the sergeant starts a secret video interrogation.”
On the video you can hear White ask the sergeant, “Can I feel your …?”
The sergeant cut him off, saying, “No, you cannot feel my badge.”
With bruising and blood on his face, White was transported to jail.
But he was released a few hours later with no charges against him.
White sued the Denver Police Department, Officer Chafin and Code-3 Protection & Security.
While the security company settled with White out of court, the Denver Police Department decided to fight the lawsuit in court.
The jury sided in favor of Mr. White, awarding him $100,000 in compensatory damages and $300,000 in punitive damages. The judge also ordered that White’s court costs and attorney’s fees be paid by the Denver Police Department.
Mr. White’s attorney Darold Killmer said:
“We are very gratified that the jury recognized that Denver police Officer Chafin engaged in excessive force. The police officer’s aggressive, bullying response was inexcusable. He bloodied and brutalized an elderly disabled man who never in his life had any run-ins with police.”
The Denver Police Department released the following statement:
“We respect the court and we respect the jury’s decision. We reviewed the case. We didn’t find any violations of policy. We are always looking for ways to improve.”
In fact, earlier this year, the Denver Police Department congratulated Chafin on Facebook for helping a disabled woman whose wheelchair had gotten stuck in the snow.
Evidently, she didn’t make the mistake of asking to feel his badge.