An Aurora, Colorado police officer who pointed a gun at an Indian-American doctor who tried to park in a refugee center he owns and operates has been suspended for 40 hours without pay.
Aurora Police Department spokesman Matthew Longshore said officer Justin Henderson must also attend de-escalation training.
Dr. Paramjit Parmar, 45, believes that his race influenced his treatment and that if he had been black he would have been treated worse.
He recorded the encounter on his cell phone and said Henderson’s punishment was “terribly inappropriate”
“It just doesn’t sound like it has many teeth,” Parmar said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “It definitely wouldn’t fly in my stores. I’ve fired people for a lot less.”
He also expressed doubts that training will have an impact, saying racism is a systemic problem in policing in the United States.
Parmar is a general practitioner who treats refugees in a medical clinic in his center. He filed a civil lawsuit Tuesday alleging that Henderson’s “actions were in line with Aurora custom, practices, guidelines and training that enable its officials to use undue violence (and particularly increased violence against people of color) without consequence.”
Parmar is demanding unspecified monetary, compensatory and punitive damages as well as legal fees.
He received body camera footage at the request of public records in June and posted it online.
It shows Henderson, who is white and pointing a gun at Parmar on the evening of March 1, after Parmar honked the officer’s police car parked outside a location at Mango House, a resource center for local refugees.
The footage shows Henderson walking to Parmar’s car and saying, “Let me see your hands. What are you doing?” before ordering to stay in the car.
Parmar says to him: “No.” Then he gets out of his car and says, “You are my property. You can get out now.”
Henderson asks Parmar if the property is his.
“I own it,” Parmar replies. “You can get off it now.”
Henderson asks Parmar, “Can you show me?” And Parmar says to him: “I don’t have to show you anything.”
Henderson says, “OK. But first of all, you don’t drive towards a cop sitting there like that.”
“You don’t swear to me,” Parmar replies. “You don’t sit on my property without asking.”
Henderson tells him he doesn’t know it’s his property. Parmar says, “Please leave the property now.”
“You enter,” says Parmar. “There are signs that say ‘trespassing’.”
Henderson says he won’t enter and Parmar asks him again to leave the property, saying he has something to do.
Parmar says to Henderson, “Be on your way.” Henderson can be seen putting his gun back in its holster and refusing to leave. He says, “I’ll find out whose property this is first.”
Parmar tells him to leave the property because he needs to unload things, then goes to a door on one side of the building, enters a security code, and goes inside.
Parmar comes back outside and says to Henderson, “You are making it harder for me to serve your church. If you got off my property I would appreciate it. I have better things to do than calm you down on a Sunday. I do.” try to do some work to help your community here. OK? You can go now. “
Parmar continues to load things from his car when another officer arrives on site. Henderson tells the officer that Parmar is “upset” that he was parked in his parking lot.
“And he comes rolling in here like he’s attacking me with his car,” Henderson tells the policeman. “And then he’s mad at me for calling him names.”
The officer asks Parmar why he is unhappy. Henderson is on the property. “Because you’re preventing me from working on my own property,” says Parmar.
“So could you ask him to back out so you can drive?” asks the officer. “I have,” Parmar replies.
“He jumped out of his car, scolded me, told me to put my hands up and so on. And he can’t get out of the way. I asked him about five times.”
The officers finally leave.
Parmar documented the encounter in a medium article that was published shortly after the encounter. He said Henderson called two other officers to the scene and they left after about 10 minutes.
“During the incident, I was upset because he was on my property without asking, because he pointed his gun at my head, because he stood in my way at work, because he didn’t believe I owned the property, and because he said he would kick other people off my property without asking me, “the 45-year-old Parmar wrote in the Medium Post.
He was also upset because he believes Henderson gas lit him. Parmar said he felt guilty after the incident and was responsible for Henderson’s aggressiveness.
“But after I slept on it, I don’t think so. I drove into my own property – he was shocked and jumped on the defensive,” wrote Parmar.
Parmar said his state representative read his report on the episode, which he also posted on Facebook, and alerted the police chief, who had opened an investigation into the incident. Parmar said he spoke to an investigator about it.
Some people have said he should have been “more docile” after Henderson had a gun in his face, Parmar said.
“If I had been white with a whiter upbringing, I might have spoken more quietly, but if I had been white, the officer would have treated me differently,” he wrote.
When confronted by Henderson, he said he believed it was an opportunity to engage him and stand up for himself.
“If I had been black, it would have gotten worse,” said Parmar on Thursday. “Good or bad, I’m at that sweet spot where I’m fair enough not to be dead. But I’m dark enough to have an incident that I know has a racing component in it.” “
Henderson, 32, joined the department in 2017. He didn’t immediately return phone and email requests for comments on Thursday.
Henderson shot dead a 22-year-old man who was confronted with a machete in an Aurora apartment on March 4, 2019, according to police.
In June 2019, Adams District Attorney Dave Young determined that Henderson was warranted for death by gunfire.