January 28, 2016 Updated: January 29, 2016 at 6:33 am
A decorated Colorado Springs police veteran punched, kicked and choked a handcuffed man last month when a traffic crash investigation spun out of control, police said in an arrest affidavit.
Sgt. Steven Biscaro was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of menacing, a felony, and third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, in the Dec. 2 confrontation in northeast Colorado Springs.
According to Biscaro’s arrest affidavit, Michael Ferguson, 43, was gasping for air, had bugged-out eyes and feared for his life before two El Paso County Sheriff deputies intervened to stop the policeman’s attacks.
“I’m gonna kill you,” the man said Biscaro threatened as he struggled to breathe and began to lose vision.
The deputies reported Biscaro to their supervisor, police spokeswoman Lt. Catherine Buckley said. Ferguson filed a separate complaint against the 23-year officer, she said.
Through his attorney, John Newsome, Biscaro denied investigators’ request to interview him. Newsome, Thursday, said Biscaro “is entitled to the presumption of innocence and does contest and deny these charges.”
Biscaro’s arrest comes amid a national debate on police use of force, fanned by at least two recent deaths resulting from police choke holds, including that of Eric Garner, a New York man whose dying words – “I can’t breathe” – became a rallying cry for police critics.
The encounter in Colorado Springs started with a traffic crash at Enchanted Circle North and Oro Blanco Drive, the affidavit said.
Sheriff’s deputy Chad Dickson was interviewing Ferguson after the crash when Ferguson “became unruly,” at one point throwing a rock at the other driver, the affidavit said. Later, Ferguson, already handcuffed with his hands behind his back, was placed in leg chains connected to a belt restraint after he smashed his head against a window, opening a “large gash” on his forehead, the report said.
Deputies said Ferguson was under control until Biscaro arrived and “tempers flared.”
Dickson said Biscaro was “condescending” toward Ferguson. A second deputy, Steven Brown, described Biscaro as being “scolding” and “short,” at one point shutting the door on a yelling Ferguson, the report said.
Ferguson, upset because Biscaro “kept interrupting him and wouldn’t allow him to finish a sentence,” started kicking the cruiser window, the affidavit said.
Brown said he was not worried about Ferguson breaking the glass because he was restrained and “could not get any force generated,” the report said. Brown, according to the report, said Biscaro kicked Ferguson in the cruiser two or three times while Ferguson was trying to “shelter himself.” Then Biscaro “yanked” Ferguson from the car, causing him to fall onto the pavement, the report said.
While Ferguson was on the ground, deputies said Biscaro put his knee on Ferguson’s chest and started “choking” him, the affidavit said.
Brown “remembered ‘very well’ that he (Biscaro) had both of his hands around Ferguson’s neck,” the report said. Dickson described Biscaro “using both hands with his thumbs overlapped around Mr. Ferguson’s throat.”
One of the deputies “pushed” Biscaro’s arms away as Ferguson gasped for air, taking short breaths and showing “round” eyes, the affidavit said.
Ferguson said Biscaro twice threatened to kill him during the attack. The affidavit doesn’t specify whether Dickson or Brown heard the threats.
In his arrest report, Biscaro defended his actions, saying he put his hands on Ferguson’s neck to keep him from spitting on him. Biscaro said he punched the handcuffed man in the back out of a fear the suspect might be able to reach a knife in the officer’s pants.
Ferguson suffered “abrasions, lacerations and contusions,” along the spine, left shoulder blade, elbows and neck, the report said.
Biscaro is on paid administrative leave.