From construction projects that allegedly damage private property to deaths on county roads, the Jeffco Attorney’s Office sees no shortage of legal claims — including one resulting from a groom getting a big shock on his wedding day.
Aug. 11, 2007, was going to be a memorable day in the life of Robert Griffin Jr. He was getting married at Clement Park, and was also coordinating SunStock 2007, an annual music festival. The festival was put on in conjunction with the Rett Syndrome Research Foundation, a cause Griffin says is close to his heart.
But an unplanned event that day was burned into the memories of Griffin and those around him when he was shocked with a Jeffco deputy’s taser and arrested minutes before taking the altar.
Griffin filed a notice of claim in February 2008 advising the county that he is planning to file a lawsuit and seek $1 million in damages.
The arrest was the culmination of an exchange between Griffin and a Foothills Park and Recreation District employee who asked him several times to move his car off a walking path. Griffin said he pulled his car into the park to unload sound equipment for the festival. Griffin and the employee got into an argument and expletives were exchanged, and Griffin eventually moved his car and left the park so he could go home and shower before his wedding.
While he was away, Deputies Fred Lang and Cory Denes arrived, after the park employee called the sheriff’s office. Lang phoned Griffin to say he needed to come back to the park to sign a citation for disturbing the peace.
When Griffin returned to the park, Lang had the citation prepared and asked Griffin to sign it. Griffin said he didn’t understand why he was the only one getting a ticket, but Griffin’s friends and family told him to sign the ticket so they could get on with the wedding. Griffin signed the ticket, and began to explain to Lang that he was a convicted felon. Griffin said he then reached into his pocket to get a cigarette, and Lang told him to take his hand out of his pocket.
“Before I got farther than that, a surprise arm lock,” Griffin said. He said his instinct was to stiffen up, and as Lang was trying to force him to bend over the trunk of the patrol car, Griffin was hollering, “What are you doing?”
“Everybody was crowding around,” Griffin said. His face was touching the trunk of Lang’s patrol car and the deputy was still telling him to bend over. “I’m hollering back with one cheek on the trunk, ‘My face is on the trunk, I can’t go any further.’” Lang then pulled out his taser and shocked Griffin three to six times.
The sheriff’s office would not comment on the matter, citing potential litigation. Lang’s report, however, offers his side of the story.
Lang said the park employee told him Griffin had threatened him, and that he was just planning to write him a citation and leave the scene. Griffin was argumentative, and told him that he was a convicted felon, and he put his right hand in his pocket. Lang said he asked Griffin to remove his hand, and Griffin did as he was asked and appeared to be removing property from his pocket. He then again put his hand in front of his pocket and so Lang put him in an “arm bar.” Griffin tightened up “in an effort to resist,” so Lang stunned him three times with the stun gun.
“It took me a long time to get over it,” Griffin said. “Through November I was in a deep funk of anger and depression.” He was processed through the jail in a couple of hours and made it back to his wedding party, but he had missed the ceremony.
Griffin went to court on the citation and agreed to a plea deal that dropped the resisting arrest charge and upheld the disturbing the peace charge, and he paid a $100 fine. As for the $1 million in damages he specified in the notice sent to the county, “you have to put that in there.”
“I’d be good with a public apology and a three-round officiated boxing match with the deputy as a fund-raiser for little girls with Rett syndrome,” Griffin said. “That’s who we were raising money for that day anyway.”