An impromptu play fight between a jail guard and inmate devolves quickly into a grappling battle.
Denver correctional officer Roberto Roena was suspended for 90 days for using taekwondo kicks and punches on an inmate as a captured video contradicts his self-defense claim.
Correctional officer Roberto Roena, a 15-year department veteran, was notified of the suspension for the fight that happened in April, according to a disciplinary letter issued by the Denver Department of Safety. Roena was punished for using excessive force, making inaccurate and misleading statements about the incident, and conduct that "compromised the mission of the Department."
Roena was on court security but he went to a cell block at the Downtown Detention Center to chat with other deputies. The disciplinary letter notes that it's a jail unit for high-risk inmates who may be mentally ill or who have had prior behavioral problems in the jail.
Play fight between a jail guard and inmate devolves quickly
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In the video, inmate John Cardenas can be seen looking at Roena and other deputies talking in the corridor as the inmate hangs in the doorway leading to the cells. The deputies ignore him and continue talking. Roena, who is also a taekwondo instructor, was telling other deputies how he practices martial arts to "stay in shape," the letter said.
Deputy Roena approaches Cardenas and raising his hands in a fighting position, throws a few sparring punches in the air and makes a partial side kick toward the inmate standing in the doorway. Cardenas makes a couple of half-hearted punches in the air but doesn't come near hitting the deputy. Roena keeps sparring, throwing punches and kicking high near Cardenas' head as the inmate backs away.
Eventually, they began grappling and Roena gets the inmate in a headlock and takes him to the ground. Several deputies rush up and separate the two men and restrain Cardenas. During a meeting with department leadership, Roena said after watching the surveillance video of the confrontation, he realized that his "actions actually caused a lot of these issues."
Roena told his superiors that he reacted improperly because he was intimidated by Cardenas, who has a reputation as a boxer who has hurt people during fights in jail. The deputy said when confronted with Cardenas, he "had an adrenaline rush" and "tunnel vision" and this caused him to "not respond effectively," the letter said.