Denver sheriff deputy suspended for using chokehold on jail inmate

The inmate was not injured, but the force was unnecessary, administrators find


A Denver Sheriff Department deputy will lose four days of pay for using a chokehold on a jail inmate, who was not injured.

Denver Department of Public Safety administrators determined that Deputy Shawn Rhatigan used inappropriate force when he crossed his arm over an inmate’s neck while transporting him to a cell. The department bans the use of chokeholds except as a method of deadly force.

“Deputy Rhatigan used inappropriate force on an inmate when he caused pressure to be applied to the inmate’s throat when it was neither reasonable nor necessary,” Deputy Director of Public Safety Mary Dulacki wrote in a disciplinary letter obtained by The Denver Post through a records request.

Rhatigan denied using the chokehold and said his arm was never on the person’s neck during internal affairs meetings with high-ranking leaders of the sheriff’s department, the letter shows. He said he moved his arm if it accidentally slipped to the man’s neck because “there are too many issues with that nowadays,” the letter states.

The inmate, who is not named in the letter, was acting unruly on Dec. 29 while getting his fingerprints taken, including telling deputies that he would beat them up, according to the letter. The man had been arrested for allegedly punching a Denver Health security guard in the face.

Two other deputies joined Rhatigan as the yelling continued, and Rhatigan grabbed the inmate after the man turned toward him and “tensed up,” according to the letter. Rhatigan and the other deputies then took the man to a cell.

Video shows a group of five deputies walking with Rhatigan as he forced the man to walk to the cell. Rhatigan’s arm crossed the front of the man’s neck, the video shows.

Dulacki wrote that Rhatigan should have removed his arm from the man’s neck immediately after other deputies responded.

The man was not injured and there are no reports he complained of not being able to breathe. He declined to be interviewed for the internal investigation.