Denver deputy suspended 10 days for punching inmate

A Denver sheriff’s deputy will be suspended for at least 10 days for punching an inmate in the face during an altercation at the Downtown Detention Center in November 2022.

Deputy Diego Villalpando-Hernandez is receiving a lesser penalty for using inappropriate force because he expressed remorse and learned from the experience, according to a decision letter issued by the Denver Department of Public Safety in August.

Villalpando-Hernandez was attempting to lock down an inmate, referred to in the decision letter as JS, on Nov. 9, 2022, when the inmate began acting aggressively toward him and adopting a “fighting stance,” according to witness statements.

Villalpando-Hernandez then also took a fighting stance and hit JS once in the face before they went to the ground and the inmate was detained by Villalpando-Hernandez and other deputies.

Villalpando-Hernandez will be suspended for 10 days in September and October, with an additional eight-day suspension held off for one year. The suspended suspension is based on Villalpando-Hernandez agreeing to not appeal the suspension or disciplinary findings and not have any misconduct resulting in “sustained discipline” for one year, according to the department.

Villalpando-Hernandez’s statements to department and city officials during disciplinary meetings are quoted in the letter, including that it was not his intention to use force and at the time he felt like the inmate’s actions dictated his response.

“I’m always willing to accept responsibility and be able to get taught through my errors in my career and life,” Villalpando-Hernandez said in a meeting with city officials.

Villalpando-Hernandez was previously suspended for 11 days in 2018 for feigning illness and “conduct prejudicial,” according to the decision letter, and for three days in 2020 for violating the department’s rule on “Respect for Fellow Deputies and Employees.”

Conduct prejudicial is a term in the Denver Sheriff’s Department discipline handbook that refers to conduct that is unbecoming or that compromises the integrity of the department or city.

Based on previous misconduct, Villalpando-Hernandez’s suspension could have ranged from 18-42 days depending on the severity of his next offense.

But Denver Public Safety’s civilian review administrator found that Villalpando-Hernandez acknowledging his mistake, expressing remorse and articulating how he learned from the experience and improved himself were “mitigating aspects” that justified the lesser penalty.

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