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Colorado officer who pointed gun at doctor's head on his own property suspended 1 week

Officer Justin Henderson will also be required to attend de-escalation training, an Aurora Police Department spokesman said.
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A police officer in Aurora, Colorado, who pointed a gun at an Indian American doctor trying to park at a refugee center he owns and operates has been suspended for 40 hours without pay.

Officer Justin Henderson will also be required to attend de-escalation training, Aurora Police Department spokesman Matthew Longshore said Thursday.

Dr. Paramjit Parmar, 45, believes his race affected how he was treated and that he would have been treated worse if he were Black.

He recorded the encounter on his cellphone and said Henderson's punishment is "terribly inadequate."

"That just does not sound like it has much teeth to it," Parmar said in a phone interview Thursday. "It definitely would not fly in my businesses. I've fired people for a lot less."

He also expressed doubt that training will have any impact, saying racism is a systemic problem in policing in the United States.

Parmar is a family physician who treats refugees at a medical clinic in his center. He filed a civil lawsuit Tuesday alleging Henderson's "actions were in line with Aurora's customs, practices, policies, and training, which allow its officers to use excessive force (and, particularly, elevated force against people of color) without consequence."

Parmar is seeking unspecified monetary, compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney's fees. Abraham Morales, a spokesman for Aurora, said the city had just received the lawsuit and "has not had time to fully review its contents, so we are unable to comment at this time."

Dr. P.J. Parmar
Dr. P.J. Parmar.KUSA

He obtained body camera footage in June through a public records request and posted it online.

It shows Henderson, who is white, pointing a gun at Parmar on the evening of March 1 after Parmar honked at the officer's police car parked in his way outside a location of Mango House, a resource center for local refugees.

The footage shows Henderson walk to Parmar's car and say, "Let me see your f------ hands. What are you doing?" before ordering him to stay in the car.

Parmar tells him, "No." He then gets out of his car and says: "You're in my property. You can get off it now."

Henderson asks Parmar whether or not the property is his. "I own it," Parmar responds. "You can get off it now."

Henderson asks Parmar: "Can you show me?" And Parmar tells him: "I don't have to show you anything."

Henderson says, "OK. But you, first off, don't drive up on a police officer that's sitting there like that."

"You don't swear at me," Parmar responds. "You don't sit on my property without asking."

Henderson tells him he didn't know it was his property. Parmar says "please leave the property now."

"You're trespassing," Parmar says. "There's signs that say trespassing."

Henderson says he isn't trespassing and Parmar again asks him to leave the property and says he has stuff to do.

Parmar tells Henderson, "be on your way." Henderson can be seen putting his gun back in the holster and refuses to leave, saying, "I'm going to figure out whose property this is first."

Parmar tells him to get off the property because he needs to unload things, then walks around to a door on one side of the building, punches in a security code and goes inside.

Parmar comes back outside and tells Henderson, "You're making it harder for me to serve your community. If you'd get off my property, I'd appreciate it. I got better stuff to do than to placate you on a Sunday night. I'm trying to do some work to help your community here. OK? You can leave now."

Parmar continues to unload things from his car as another officer arrives on scene. Henderson tells the officer Parmar is "upset" that he is parked in his parking lot.

"And he comes rolling in here, like he's about to assault me with his car," Henderson tells the officer. "And then he's mad at me that I cuss at him."

The officer asks Parmar why he is unhappy Henderson is on the property. "Because you're blocking me from doing work on my own property," Parmar says.

"So could you just ask him to maybe back up so you can drive?" the officer asks. "I did," Parmar responds.

"He jumped out of his car, swore at me, told me to get my hands up and so forth. And he's not getting out of the way. I've asked him about five times."

The officers eventually leave.

Parmar documented the encounter in a Medium post published March 2. He said Henderson had called two other officers to the scene and that 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 was in my way of doing work, because he wouldn't believe I owned the property, and because he said he kicks other people off my property without asking me," Parmar wrote in the Medium post.

He was also upset because he believes Henderson was gaslighting him. Parmar said he felt guilty after the incident and to blame for Henderson's aggressiveness.

"But after sleeping on it, I don’t think so. I was driving into my own property — he was startled, and jumped on the defensive," Parmar wrote.

Parmar said his state representative read his account of the episode that he also posted on Facebook and brought it to the attention of the police chief, who opened an investigation into the incident. Parmar said he spoke with an investigator for it.

Some people have said he should have been "more docile" after Henderson had a gun to his face, Parmar said.

"If I were white with a whiter upbringing, I might have been able to speak softer, but if I were white, the officer would have treated me differently also," he wrote.

When he was confronted by Henderson, he said he believed it was an opportunity to engage him and to stand up for himself.

"If I had been Black, it would have gone worse, unfortunately," Parmar said Thursday. "For better or worse, I'm in that sweet spot where I'm light-skinned enough to not be dead. But I'm dark-skinned enough to have had an incident which I know there was a race component to it."

Henderson, 32, joined the department in 2017. He did not immediately return phone and email requests for comment Thursday.

Henderson shot and killed a 22-year-old man who police said confronted them with a machete in an Aurora apartment March 4, 2019.

In June 2019, Adams County District Attorney Dave Young determined Henderson was justified in the shooting death.