About 15 months before Colorado Springs Police Officer Matthew Anderson repeatedly struck Dalvin Gadson Ochoa during a traffic stop last October, the city paid $37,500 to another local citizen who alleged Anderson needlessly shoved him against a car in retaliation for flipping him off.
The payment was part of a settlement in a federal civil rights lawsuit that arose from a June 7, 2019, incident in which Michael Sexton gave Anderson the finger and then jaywalked across 30th Street.
The Sexton incident gave rise to a “supervisor discussion” with Anderson but no other discipline, and that case appears to be the most serious among a handful of internal investigations of Anderson and two other officers — Colby Hickman and Christopher Hummel — who were also involved in Ochoa’s traffic stop.
All the investigations except the Sexton case resulted in the officers being exonerated, according to records obtained by Sixty35 news magazine via the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act.
Moreover, most of those cases, except Sexton’s allegations, didn’t involve use of force but rather were complaints from citizens of rudeness or lack of professionalism.
CSPD has said a command staff review of the actions taken with Ochoa found those actions to be within policy, though an Internal Affairs probe is ongoing.
Records obtained by Sixty35, at a cost of $313.50, also show all three officers have received accolades for their service. Anderson was awarded two Medals of Valor for extraordinary actions, and the others also have been honored for their work.
But Harry Daniels of Atlanta, one of Ochoa’s lawyers in the federal lawsuit, says he expects more information to come out about CSPD during the discovery process of the lawsuit.
“We know for a fact Anderson has a history of use of force,” he tells Sixty35, pointing to the 2020 lawsuit that led to the Sexton settlement.
If more information lies beyond the reach of the media, Daniels says, “We will definitely find out,” using the court procedure called discovery.
During a Dec. 21 news conference, Daniels said the lawsuit is “about removing bad apples from the streets,” but publicly available records contain no smoking gun.
Anderson, Hickman and Hummel have been named in a lawsuit filed Dec. 21, 2022, by Ochoa alleging the officers used excessive force during a traffic stop on Oct. 9, 2022, on South Academy Boulevard.
Ochoa, a 29-year-old Black man and Army vet, was stopped after he was observed driving 15 mph in a 40 mph zone in the early morning hours in a vehicle that didn’t bear a visible license plate. (The plate was in the back seat.)
The officers required Ochoa to get out of the vehicle for a DUI investigation. When he expressed reluctance, and when officers noticed a knife in the cup holder, they tried pulling him out and beat him, body-worn camera footage shows.
Anderson appears on the footage repeatedly striking Ochoa with his fist, and the lawsuit says Anderson kicked him in the face while Ochoa was “curled up in the fetal position” on the pavement outside the vehicle.
“Mr. Gadson [Ochoa] sustained a black eye, back injuries, chest wall contusions, an abrasion to the right side of his back, and a closed head injury,” the lawsuit states. “Mr. Gadson [Ochoa] also suffers from severe mental anguish and severe emotional distress as a result of his encounter on October 9, 2022.”
Before Anderson applied to CSPD, he graduated with a degree in communication and media studies and business from Georgetown College, Georgetown, Kentucky, in 2008. While there, he was a star soccer player and attended school on a soccer scholarship, according to his CSPD job application.
After graduation, he worked as an event staffer for Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky, and later for a Pepsi-Cola bottling company as a route salesman.
Asked to state his objective on the CSPD application, Anderson wrote, “To protect and serve for the Colorado Springs Police Department, and to make a positive impact on the lives of others. I have never wanted anything more than to be a Police Officer; and to be one in Colorado Springs would be a dream come true.”
He said he learned of the opening from his brother-in-law, a CSPD officer.
During his first term of service at CSPD, from March 16, 2015, until March 5, 2021, he received a dozen awards, including two Medals of Valor. Those were bestowed for his part in the Nov. 27, 2015, Planned Parenthood shooting and for the Oct. 31, 2015, takedown of a shooter in which he “fearlessly and selflessly surrounded an armed and dangerous suspect with no regard to personal injury or death,” the certificate states.
He also was given eight “Commander’s Commendations” for his policing, which included investigations of felons, weapons violations and shots fired at an apartment complex; teaching a class on how to “look beyond the traffic stop” for more impactful policing; making many arrests for vehicle thefts, DUI and narcotics; and other actions.
Sexton filed his lawsuit on Jan. 14, 2020, alleging Anderson pushed him against the cruiser’s hood and wrenched his arm behind his back on June 7, 2019, because Sexton had flipped him off, which the lawsuit described as exercising his First Amendment right. Anderson cited him for jaywalking, but the charge was dismissed three months later.
“Defendant Anderson did not need to use any force at all against Mr. Sexton, but did so because he was angry that Mr. Sexton had flipped him off…,” the lawsuit says.
The Internal Affairs investigation found that “[Sexton] was never taken to the ground or had force used on him,” records show.
However, the administrative review by a sergeant, lieutenant and commander also found that “had the subject not flipped Officer Anderson off, the contact would not have been made for Jaywalking,” and that “This contact was the only Jaywalking summons that Officer Anderson has issued in 2019 to date.”
The review also concluded that Anderson’s contact with Sexton was “argumentative and could have been handled in a more professional manner.”
In a letter to the complainant, the department advised that Anderson “did violate department policy and procedures with regard to Discretionary Judgement [sic].”
The case concluded with a supervisor discussing the matter with Anderson.
Meantime, on March 5, 2021, a year after Sexton filed the lawsuit, Anderson left CSPD and was subsequently hired by the Columbus, Indiana, police department to which he voluntarily disclosed the lawsuit during the hiring process, according to a story on The Republic news site.
On Aug. 21, 2021, about five weeks after the city paid to settle the Sexton lawsuit, CSPD rehired Anderson.
The other internal inquiries into Anderson’s policing practices included claims he did nothing to make an arrest that some people thought should have taken place; a complaint he was rude in dealing with a tenant over a landlord dispute; another complaint about rudeness regarding an Airbnb complaint; and an incident in which Anderson yelled at two security guards who were interfering with an investigation of a suspicious subject at a 7-Eleven store. He was exonerated in all cases.
It’s worth noting there might be other IA cases involving Anderson, because CSPD noted that the cases that were released came under the dictates of House Bill 19-1119, which mandates disclosure of IA reports for incidents that occurred following adoption of that law on April 12, 2019.
As for any cases that predated HB19-1119, Sixty35’s records request was denied “as the privacy interests in the confidentiality of records by the complainants, officers and CSPD outweigh the public interest in the records,” CSPD said.
The other two officers who participated in the Ochoa takedown last October also have received praise, and while they’ve been investigated for their actions due to citizens filing complaints, none resulted in disciplinary action.
Officer Hickman, hired on Jan. 25, 2021, made the traffic stop on Ochoa, ordered him out of the car and eventually handcuffed him.
On his CSPD application, Hickman wrote that he wanted to pursue a law enforcement career and that his military experience “makes me an ideal candidate.”
A 2010 graduate of Palmer High School, Hickman served in the Navy from 2011 to 2016. He then attended Pikes Peak State College but didn’t graduate and worked as a child watch attendant at the YMCA and as an apprentice electrician.
He was awarded the Commander’s Commendation in August 2022 for his role in the investigation of a business burglary that led to the arrest of three suspects and recovery of $60,000 in merchandise.
Hickman has faced three internal investigations, all of which resulted in findings that they were unfounded and his actions were justified. The cases involved claims he failed to act in response to a harassment allegation that was found to involve a civil matter; his refusal to act on a “loud party” noise complaint that was found to be one of many complaints by the same resident that didn’t qualify for police action; and a scuffle with a suicidal female who had a knife in which commanders ruled his actions in using force to diffuse the situation were “within policy.”
Anderson appears on the footage repeatedly striking Ochoa with his fist.
Officer Hummel joined CSPD March 16, 2020. He approached Ochoa’s car on the driver’s side and tried to pull him out of the vehicle, according to the lawsuit. Hummel later kneed Ochoa in the forehead and held on to his left arm while Anderson beat him, the lawsuit claims.
After graduating from Washington High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in 2008, Hummel served in the South Dakota National Guard from 2009 to 2010 when he joined the Army and served in Africa, Canada, Europe and the Middle East until 2013, his job application says.
He served with the Oklahoma National Guard from 2013 to 2016 and attended several colleges in Oklahoma but didn’t graduate. Hummel worked as an officer with the Stillwater Police Department from 2014 until he applied to CSPD in April 2019.
He’s received two Commander’s Commendations — for assisting in the arrest of a suspected bank robber, and for alerting medical personnel that a suspect at a hospital was experiencing drug overdose symptoms, which hospital personnel credited with saving the suspect’s life, according to those certificates.
He also was honored as Employee of the Month in January 2022 by the Sand Creek Division for assisting Officer Anderson in obtaining key information about a shooter.
He’s faced three internal inquiries, which concluded no misconduct occurred. Those cases involved a citizen who claimed Hummel was “rude and unprofessional” in telling her she was no longer welcome at a local business; a claim he and another officer pointed a gun at a citizen; and a case in which an Airbnb owner had a guest who refused to leave.
The investigations of all the officers relied on body-worn camera footage, which disproved the claims, the investigation reports show.
A scheduling conference in the Ochoa lawsuit is slated for Feb. 28.