Bar Security Camera Exposes Off-Duty Officers’ Lies About Their Unprovoked Assault Of Another Bar Patron

from the shitcan-these-bozos-before-they-can-be-indemnified dept

Cops lie.

That’s just the way it is.

It shouldn’t be this way. Cops are given an incredible amount of power and expected to handle it responsibly. But when they start doing things they shouldn’t be doing, out come the lies. Accountability may as well be a foreign term of legal art because cops understand it about as well as they understand the laws they’re supposed to enforce: i.e., not at all.

When cops are allowed to deliver the narrative, it goes something like this:

An off-duty deputy was struck by a possible bullet fragment after an argument in front of a Billings bar turned violent early Saturday morning, and one person was hospitalized due to a rollover crash after fleeing the scene.

Billings Chief of Police Rich St. John provided what details were available about an altercation at the Grandstand Sports Bar and Casino during a press conference held Saturday afternoon. No arrests have been made, but at least one round from a handgun was possibly fired by a suspect. Both the deputy and a civilian who was involved are expected to fully recover, while the man pulled from the crash suffered life-threatening injuries.

That’s from the Billings (MT) Gazette’s original reporting about an altercation at a local bar. The police chief noted an investigation was ongoing and details were limited, but still provided enough details to make it appear the off-duty officer was a victim, rather than one of the perpetrators.

From what investigators have gathered so far, St. John said that a group of off-duty officers met at the Grandstand on Friday night. At around 12:45 a.m., a Yellowstone County deputy, a Billings police officer and a civilian left the casino and were talking in the parking lot. A maroon Chevy Malibu then pulled into the parking lot carrying two people and came to a stop near the three.

“Words were exchanged,” St. John said, and driver of the Malibu brandished a handgun. The deputy and police officer both went to the driver’s side window to seize the weapon. The civilian went to the other side, opened the car door and “either told the passenger to get out or pulled him out,” in order to get to the driver holding the handgun.

The Grandstand is a bar. The off-duty officers were drinking. They did not merely “meet,” a term that makes it appear the officers were fully in control of their mental and physical facilities when the so-called “altercation” took place. Also, it’s clear from this statement that the only story provided was delivered by the off-duty officers, considering the other person involved was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries.

The real story arrived a few days later. CCTV footage from the bar provided a completely different — and an almost completely inarguable — depiction of the so-called altercation. The officers’ statements to Billings PD investigators were lies. The entire chain of events was set in motion by two off-duty officers (and one other person who has yet to be identified, but is suspected to be a recently retired officer) who decided they had the right and the power to apprehend and physically assault someone who offended them by driving through the parking lot while they stood in it, presumably intoxicated.

The whole exchange, both audio and video, was captured on the Grandstand’s security cameras and [Louis] Delgado, a 24-year-old with a newborn baby, wants everyone to see the video. It was the cops who started the fight, he said, and he never fired his gun.

The recording is disturbing. It shows the off-duty cops acting as aggressors while presumably under the influence. The aftermath — as was first reported by the Billings Gazette — exposes the officers’ belief they could get away with assaulting someone if they concocted a story about a shooting.

Here’s what actually happened, as captured by the bar’s camera.

On the night of the incident, the three men left the bar through its west exit at about 12:45 a.m., according to security footage. They lingered, talking as other patrons left the bar and headed for their cars.

Several minutes pass before Delgado in his Chevy Malibu with his friend rolls into the frame. [Officer Matt] Frank puts his knee into the door of Delgado’s car, and then sets down a bottle.

Delgado yells at the men to get out of his way.  

One of the men responds, “Really? Or what?”

Delgado fears the much larger men and warns them he has a gun, his attorney said.

In the video, Smart and Frank are then seen reaching into the driver’s side window, with the deputy throwing several punches at Delgado.

“Don’t pull a f—ing gun, you f—ing idiot. Are you f—ing kidding me?” one of the men yells.

One of the men can also be heard saying they also have guns.

As Smart was throwing punches, Delgado hit him hard in the mouth with the butt of his gun.

At about the same time, the third man walked around to the passenger side of the car where Delgado’s friend sat. The third man can be heard saying, “Get out. Police.” It is apparently the first time any of the three men identify themselves as law enforcement. Delgado’s friend gets out and walks away.

As Frank, still on the driver’s side, manages to get the door open, Delgado speeds away, heading west on Grand. The third man, who had climbed into the car, jumps out.

Delgado sped away from this assault, ultimately rolling his car and suffering serious injury. Twenty-five law enforcement officers showed up at the bar to handle the unverified statement that an officer had been shot. No gun or muzzle flash can be seen in the video. A gun was recovered from Delgado’s car after the crash, but it is evidence of nothing. Anyone over the age of 18 who isn’t a convicted felon can legally carry a concealed firearm in Montana. And nothing in any report on the incident indicates the recovered gun had been recently fired.

Officer Matt Frank has since been placed on administrative leave. And the Billings PD has a much bigger investigation on its hands. As the Billings Gazette reports, Officer Frank — one minute prior to putting his knee into Delgado’s car and instigating the off-duty officers’ assault of Delgado — was also captured on the security camera footage kicking another passing car as it pulled out of the parking lot.

What’s on display here is these officers’ bullying behavior — something encouraged by the immense amount of power they’ve been given and the complete lack of accountability that often accompanies this power. It shows the officers felt they could not only assault a “civilian” with impunity but that they could get away with it — a not totally unreasonable assumption given how most law enforcement agencies minimize, if not completely ignore, officer misconduct.

These officers had no idea a camera captured the whole incident. That’s why they felt comfortable lying to the 25 officers who rushed to the scene of the nonexistent shooting of an off-duty officer. Now they’re going to be facing an internal investigation and a civil rights lawsuit from Louis Delgado without the ability to lie about what actually happened that night. Hopefully they’ll be out of a job long before Delgado’s lawsuit has run its course, making it almost impossible for them to ask taxpayers to foot the bill for their wrongdoing.

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Comments on “Bar Security Camera Exposes Off-Duty Officers’ Lies About Their Unprovoked Assault Of Another Bar Patron”

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re: The problem with that judicial view…

Supposedly each of the three branches of government are equal, but with wholly separate powers. But when the courts make up a rule that no legislative branch law is actually a law until a court interprets it – even when the interpretation wildly contradicts the text of the law – the court is asserting superiority over the legislative branch.

It’s especially stupid when the court has no authority to make laws, and what rules they make are generally subordinate to laws – but they hold their rules superior to laws anyway.

The fact that the existence of the rule called Qualified Immunity is blatantly unconstitutional under the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause just doubles down on the stupidity.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s not an equal protection violation to have different standards for government officials acting in their official capacities. The section of the Constitution it violates (in its current form) is none other than Article I Section 1. This section reads, in its entirety, “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.”

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:


I expect the internal investigation will comprise of paid leave and a round of ribbing from other officers for getting caught before either brushing it under the rug or handing out the weakest wrist-slap possible, and any judge involved will decide that since it hasn’t been ruled previously that drunkenly assaulting a person in that particular parking lot on that particular day of the week is a violation of any rights QI is entirely appropriate.

The only person I am worried about is the victim, after having the audacity to not take his beating lying down and making the police look bad in the process I really hope he manages to keep away from them because any future interactions are not likely to go well for him.

As always with things like this I’d love to be wrong on all counts… but I don’t expect I will be for any of them.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

One does wonder how anything from a fist fight looked like a bullet, let alone how was anyone shot from a weapon still fully loaded.

If they know the department and union will ALWAYS believe any story they tell & push it as the truth… they are going to lie like a child. The problem is these assholes didn’t steal a cookie off the counter without permission & claiming they didn’t… these assholes hold other peoples lives in their hands & far to many of them lie about everything to be trusted to give a narrative about what left someone dead on the ground.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

This would be problematic were it a drunken cop assaulting someone but the fact that it’s multiple and that they were so blatant in their behavior and lie does not paint a pleasant picture.

They got caught this time thanks to the bar’s camera, the question to ask is how many previous times they’ve decided to pull a stunt like this and got away with it because Police Are Never Wrong and if they say someone got a beating because the ‘suspect’ took a swing/shot at them who’s to say otherwise?

Anonymous Coward says:

Hopefully they’ll be out of a job long before Delgado’s lawsuit has run its course, making it almost impossible for them to ask taxpayers to foot the bill for their wrongdoing.

If there’s any union involved, I wouldn’t count on it. Cops could steal the gold out of Fort Knox and any police union would insist that’s not sufficient cause to fire the thief (or thieves).

Naughty Autie says:

Depressingly Common

I expect that this kind of police brutality will become so common that after a while, only Techdirt will be reporting on it. Then, only after another 50 years or so, it will be recognised how much money violent cops are losing their departments/state governments/the taxpayers, and something will finally be done to hold these aggressive individuals personally responsible for their actions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Delgado, a 24-year-old with a newborn baby,…

It makes it sound as if the baby is in the car but we don’t hear about the baby again after that. I spent the whole article trying to find out what happened to the baby during the assault and in the crash. I guess the baby was not in the car? Maybe our author could clarify that right after the quote.

David says:

Re: You already swallowed the scapegoat.

I worry about the bar owner, what kind of retribution are the cops going to seek now that the owner outed one of their own as a lying sack of shit.

They picked a fall guy (to be paid compensation until another department hires him) and you went for it. Just as a reminder: this was a whole group of drunk officers out for trouble and acting and lying as a group, and they were exposed as terrorising citizens as a group. There is going to be quite a bit of damages to pay, so the department needs to show that they are doing something. So they pick one officer for getting a paid vacation before possibly changing department.

One. The lying bag of shit will be back, just with one rotten apple replaced from another bag of shit.

Mick says:

That's not why

From TFA:

These officers had no idea a camera captured the whole incident. That’s why they felt comfortable lying to the 25 officers who rushed to the scene

Yeah, that’s not why they felt comfortable. At all.

They felt comfortable because they knew that, whatever happened, their fellow officers would parrot any ridiculous story, as long as it didn’t include “the cops were wrong.”

They expected protection, and they got protection. Until the video surfaced.

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