Denver cop facing excessive force suit for using Taser on hotel guest

A Denver police officer repeatedly used a Taser on an unarmed man as he lay on the ground in a downtown hotel lobby, a federal excessive force lawsuit alleges.

Nicholas Munden was hospitalized after the May 9, 2022, incident at the Denver Art Hotel and suffered electrical burns to his stomach, legs and shoulder, as well as an injury to his shoulder, according to the federal lawsuit he filed last week against the officer and the city of Denver.

The officer, Michael Pineda, used excessive force against Munden, who had a reservation at the hotel but was asked to leave, the lawsuit states.

“Regardless of whether he should or shouldn’t have left, he wasn’t posing a threat to folks,” said Jon Topolewski, the attorney representing Munden.

Pineda is on unpaid administrative leave from the Denver Police Department because he is facing felony theft charges in a separate case, a department spokesman said. He was already under investigation for the alleged theft, related to an off-duty job, when he encountered Munden, court documents show.

The manager at the Denver Art Hotel asked Munden to leave due to a complaint from another guest in the hotel, according to the lawsuit. When Munden refused, Pineda responded to the hotel and found Pineda in a stairwell. Muneda continued to refuse to leave and Pineda grabbed Munden by the shoulders and attempted to arrest Munden, the lawsuit states. Munden then fled the stairwell and ran into the hotel lobby.

Video surveillance footage from inside the hotel lobby shows Pineda run up to Munden and draw his baton. Pineda hit Munden three times with the baton while Munden tried to move away from him. After the third hit, Munden tried to grab the baton but Pineda put him in a bear hug.

Munden escaped Pineda’s grasp and pushed a large statute toward the officer. Munden then pulled out his cellphone and was standing six feet from Munden when Pineda shot him with a Taser cartridge.

Pineda then shot Munden with the Taser at least three more times while Munden lay on the ground and backup officers arrived.

The Denver District Attorney’s Office charged Munden with assault of a police officer, disarming a police officer, resisting arrest, obstructing a police officer and trespassing. Munden in September pleaded guilty to the trespassing charge, a misdemeanor, and the other charges were dismissed, court records show.

A Denver police sergeant found Pineda’s use of force to be reasonable and Pineda was not disciplined, the lawsuit states.

The Denver Police Department declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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