A judge sentenced a former Denver police officer to four years probation on Tuesday (May 4) after the 66-year-old held two men, one white and the other a Black Colorado State University football player, at gunpoint and kneeling on the neck of the Black student-athlete.
At the time of the June 2020 incident, the Denver Post reported then-officer Scott Gudmundsen forced CSU football player Barry Wesley, who was working as a door-to-door roofing salesman, and his white coworker to the ground. Gudmundsen knelt on Wesley’s neck and jammed a gun in his back while accusing the two men of being terrorists and members of antifa.
According to a criminal complaint, Gudmundsen told Wesley he wouldn’t be the one to kill him, but that the police would.
“I can still feel how hard and how fast my heartbeat was,” Wesley said in court during the sentencing. “I can still remember the amount of adrenaline in my body… I was certain my death was going to be another hashtag, another reason for people to protest, because it was clear that to Mr. Gudmundsen my Black life did not matter.”
Gudmundsen pleaded guilty to one felony charge of menacing with a weapon, though prosecutors declined to bring hate crime charges against Gudmundsen.
In court on Tuesday (May 4), Gudmundsen’s public defender, Ryan Markus, said he was experiencing a mental health crisis at the time of the incident and added that the former officer was a part of what he described as a “culture war.”
“I truly believe that Mr. Gudmundsen was suffering from mental health issues,” Markus said. “That he acted on training he had had for years, much of which has since been changed, and rightly so.” Markus said his client struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and had previously suffered a traumatic brain injury. Gudmundsen, he said, was experiencing delusions during the incident following a surgery on his knee.
“I’m trying to scratch my head and figure out what happened and why I acted the way I did,” Gudmundsen said in a brief statement. “...I’m horrified by my behavior,” he added.
Markus says Gudmundsen believed the surgery he underwent was because of a protesters throwing a brick during a Black Lives Matter protest, but that it was really a splinter that had turned septic.
“The anesthesia I was under apparently had a lasting effect on me and I was strange in the head for about six weeks… I apologize to the victims. I’m sorry,” he said.
The judge in the case, Judge Michelle Brinegar, noted that prison was not an option for Gudmundsen due to the plea deal agreement. Probation, she said, would keep Gudmundsen under the longest possible supervision that other options, including two and half years of community corrections, couldn’t.
“There is no justice I can give that is adequate to the victims in this case,” Brinegar said. “This is the best I can do.” The judge called the incident a “targeted, hateful attack.”
“I am living, breathing and speaking to you today,” Wesley said. “There are thousands of Black families who have shared this experience, except their loved one never came home.”
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